‘Unfair, ill-thought and short sighted’: Fencing competitor slams governing body for allowing males to dominate female competition

A fencing competitor is slamming the sport’s new “unfair, ill-thought and short sighted” inclusion policy that allows biological males to compete in female events. And the males are…

A fencing competitor is slamming the sport’s new “unfair, ill-thought and short sighted” inclusion policy that allows biological males to compete in female events. And the males are dominating.

“What I’m seeing happening right now is a total disregard for the integrity of women’s sports at all ages from girls to the seniors to the veteran women,” the competitor, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told the Daily Mail. 

USA Fencing’s transgender and nonbinary athlete policy was released last November and allows biological males to compete in the women category with few restrictions.  

“As such, athletes will be permitted to participate in USA Fencing sanctioned events in a manner consistent with their gender identity/expression, regardless of the gender associated with the sex they were assigned at birth in accordance with the guidelines listed below,” the policy states.  

“Athletes being treated with testosterone suppression medication, for the purposes of USA Fencing-sanctioned competitions may continue to compete in men’s events,” the policy continues, “but may only compete in women’s events after completing one calendar year (12 months) of testosterone suppression treatment.” 

USA Fencing only requires a letter from medical personnel as proof of compliance with the hormone policy. 

A USA Fencing spokesperson admitted no regular testosterone or hormone testing is performed on transgender athletes, according to the Daily Mail.  

“Women and girls not only deserve fair competition, they deserve the right to feel like they could win. Stacking odds against us at the start is incredibly disappointing,” the anonymous competitor said. “Male-bodied individuals can enter the women’s division with simply a doctor’s note without external verification of hormone levels, surgeries or in-completion or out-of-completion testing.” 

The competitor said she’s pulled out of regional and national tournaments after she was told officials wouldn’t be checking transgender athlete’s testosterone levels before the events. 

“Not very many of the parents are particularly fond of this recent development because its puts their children, their daughters at a direct disadvantage in competition,” she added.  

But even before there was an official transgender athlete policy in fencing, biological men had reportedly been competing in the women’s category and dominating the competition for over a decade. 

Elizabeth Kocab, previously known as Greg, has been participating in women’s fencing events since 2009. Kocab has won over 35 gold medals, five silver and eight bronze in women’s events.

In 2011, Kocab was awarded the world gold medal for veteran women, according to Reduxx. And in July, Kocab was the 2023 national champion in the veteran category. 

Dawn Wilson, who is also a biological male, is a two-time Women’s World Saber Champion, and is currently ranked 7th in the country. Wilson has been on the board of the USA Fencing since 2013 and helped create the transgender policy last fall.  

With the new transgender policy, biological males will likely continue to dominate in the female category.

Eden Philpot, formally known as Evan, has won four gold medals and two silver in a matter of months, according to Reduxx. 

Philpot also received medals in two different disciplines – the foil and the saber – a feat beyond reach for most fencers.  

“No other competitor appears on the podium of both events aside from Eden,” the competitor said. “I don’t think I’ve seen it in my lifetime of fencing.”

Last month, well known fencing coach Damien Lehfeldt posted an article supporting the new transgender policy and claiming uncertainty about whether males have a biological advantage over females.  

“There is a possibility that transgender women have a physical advantage over their cisgender opponents after transitioning,” Lehfeldt wrote. “There is also a possibility they do not. In Fencing, there is no data to support either viewpoint.” 

However, one of the studies Lehfeldt cites clearly states that even biological males on estrogen therapy have a clear physical advantage.

“Ultimately, the former male physiology of transwoman athletes provides them with a physiological advantage over the cis-female athlete,” concluded the study.  

‘In fencing, there are athletic advantages to being male over female,” the competitor told the Daily Mail. “But there are equal events for men and women, so if we say that men can be given the right to taking those spots and awards and medals and podiums from women along with what they already have, that is a disparity of opportunity.” 

When Lehfeldt was asked on social media if he was okay with “cis females being at a disadvantage?” his simply answer was “yeah.” 

“His activism outweighs any fairness in women’s sports,” said the competitor. “When I saw that I felt enraged in a way that made me cry. I felt that all was lost because right there, he said it, he does not care about women’s sports.” 

The competitor said there are numerous other athletes and coaches that share the same concerns about fairness but are afraid to speak up due to the organization’s public stance on the issue.  

“As we move forward, we’ll continue our research to further understand the physiological implications of gender transition within the unique environment of fencing, and where we see empirical evidence that needs to be addressed we will immediately move to do so,” USA Fencing told Daily Mail. “But make no mistake – now and in the future, our commitment to the rights of transgender athletes won’t falter.”  

Meanwhile, many other sports organizations have banned biological males from competing in women’s sports regardless of testosterone levels, including World Aquatics and the International Chess Federation.