The discourse around transgender athletes is already dominated by bigots, bullies, and people who only started caring about women’s sports about five seconds ago. But things reached a whole new level when disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong chimed in.
Famous for using performance-enhancing drugs and receiving a lifetime ban from competition, Armstrong truly doesn’t have a leg to stand on in this debate.
However, that didn’t stop him from posting a Twitter thread about “the fairness of Trans athletes in sport” this weekend, provoking derisive reactions as people accused him of hypocrisy.
Armstrong’s Twitter thread was promoting an upcoming podcast co-hosted by Caitlyn Jenner, with Armstrong saying that people are afraid to be “fired, shamed or cancelled” for participating in a “spirited debate” regarding trans athletes.
“As someone all too familiar with this phenomenon, I feel I’m uniquely positioned to have these conversations,” wrote Armstrong. This led to a Twitter citation clarifying that Armstrong wasn’t “cancelled,” but was actually stripped of his competitive titles due to his doping scandal.
The response on Twitter suggests that, to many people, Armstrong and Jenner are a match made in hell. While Jenner is both transgender and a former pro athlete, her right-wing politics do not align with the modern trans rights movement. She also openly opposes trans girls participating in girls sports at school, suggesting that this podcast will espouse similar views—especially when coupled with Armstrong’s “just asking questions” attitude, and his remarks about a potential cancellation.
Many of Armstrong’s detractors point out that he himself used testosterone and human growth hormone as performance-enhancers, making him a real example of the unfounded scaremongering around trans athletes and “hormones.”
In reality, there’s little evidence that trans women have an unfair advantage in elite sports. Ultimately though, the backlash against trans athletes is more to do with bigotry than science.
The people campaigning against trans people in sports—especially those who want to exclude trans girls from school-age athletics—are mostly using this as a wedge issue to spread transphobic misinformation and push trans people back into the closet. It’s not a constructive debate, and Armstrong is singularly unqualified to weigh in on the topic of fair competition.