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Semenya’s case reflects broader dilemmas facing sports world

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NEW YORK — Caster Semenya’s running career, jarred by an adverse court ruling on Wednesday, is unique in virtually all its details. Yet the dilemmas she has posed for the track-and-field establishment reflect how vast segments of the sports world are n…


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  • NEW YORK — Caster Semenya’s running career, jarred by an adverse court ruling on Wednesday, is unique in virtually all its details. Yet the dilemmas she has posed for the track-and-field establishment reflect how vast segments of the sports world are now wrestling with issues related to intersex and transgender athletes.

    The essence of the dilemma: How to minimize or eliminate discrimination while simultaneously ensuring that competitions are as fair as possible.

    The challenges faced by Olympic champion Semenya — a South African woman who reportedly has some intersex traits — differ in key respects from those confronting transgender women. But there are parallels as well, as evidenced in the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the sports world’s highest court,

    The CAS ruled that Semenya and other female runners with unusually high testosterone must take medication to reduce their levels of the male sex hormone if they want to compete in certain events, notably the 400 and 800 metres. Comparable requirements apply to transgender women seeking to compete in the Olympics and in NCCA-governed collegiate sports in the U.S.; both organizations say male-to-female athletes should demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below a certain point for at least a year before their first competition.

    In Semenya’s case, the CAS voted 2-1 to uphold proposed rules issued by international track’s governing body, the IAAF, saying that they are discriminatory but that “such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means” of “preserving the integrity of female athletics.”

    Athlete Ally, a U.S.-based group advocating for grater transgender inclusion in sports, assailed the ruling against Semenya.

    “Forcing athletes to undergo medically unnecessary interventions in order to participate in the sport they dedicate their lives to is cruel, and a violation of their human rights,” said the group’s executive director, Hudson Taylor.

    Also angered was Kimberly Zieselman, executive director of InterACT, which advocates on behalf of intersex youth.

    The CAS ruling against Semenya “is another example of the ignorance faced by women athletes who have differences in their sex traits,” Zieselman said in an email. “There is no one way to be a woman.”

    “It is an inherently flawed conclusion that Caster’s natural testosterone level is the only thing giving her physical strength,” Zieselman added. She noted — while citing swimmer Michael Phelps’ long arms — that many athletes have unique physical advantages.

    Powerful female stars such as Serena Williams in tennis, Katie Ledecky in swimming and 6-foot-9 (2.06-meter) Brittney Griner in basketball also have been cited as possessing a distinctive physical edge.

    Aside from Semenya, there have been relatively few high-profile controversies involving intersex athletes, while there’s been an abundance of news stories about transgender athletes.

    Overall, supporters of increased trans inclusion in sports are heartened by the pace of progress. In the United States, a growing number of state high school athletic associations in the U.S. enable them to play on teams based on their gender identity, and the NCAA has trans-inclusive guidelines for all its member schools.

    But there have been numerous bitter controversies, even at the high school level. In Connecticut, for example, the dominance of transgender girl sprinters Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood has stirred resentment among some competitors and their families.

    At the adult level, USA Powerlifting incurred recent criticism for sticking by its policy of banning trans women from its competitions. The organization contends that regardless of testosterone levels, male-to-female competitors generally have significant advantages related to bone density and muscle mass.

    Earlier this year, tennis great Martina Navratilova became entangled in the debate over trans women’s place in sports.

    A lesbian and longtime gay-rights activist, Navratilova was accused of being “transphobic” after asserting that many transgender women — even if they’d undergone hormone treatment — have an unfair advantage over other female competitors. Among her critics was Athlete Ally, which ousted her from its advisory board.

    Another critic was Rachel McKinnon, a transgender Canadian track cyclist who in October won a world championship sprint event for women of ages 35 to 44. She suggested that Navratilova’s argument reflected “an irrational fear of trans women.”

    McKinnon encountered widespread resentment after she won her championship event.

    Initially, she was elated, even though one of her top rivals pulled out of the final at the last minute. But then a photo spread across the internet showing her on the podium with the two smaller, skinnier runners-up, triggering extensive social-media attacks.

    Joanna Harper, a medical physicist and transgender runner from Portland, Oregon, says the controversies raise complex questions, and she believes there needs to be a standard based on hormone levels.

    “The gender identity doesn’t matter, it’s the testosterone levels,” Harper said. “Trans girls should have the right to compete in sports. But cisgender girls should have the right to compete and succeed, too. How do you balance that? That’s the question.”

    The IAAF argued in Semenya’s case that high, naturally occurring levels of testosterone in athletes with intersex characteristics that don’t conform to standard definitions of male and female give them an unfair competitive advantage. It decreed a maximum level for females.

    Semenya — whose muscular build and super-fast times have led some to question her accomplishments — declared she will not be deterred by the CAS ruling.

    “For a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger,” she said in a statement. “I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world.”

    David Crary, The Associated Press





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    Alberta’s Parker Thompson in pole position in first of 2 weekend races! – details and link to live racing here

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  • Photos courtesy – RMAC Motorsports Photography

    Parker Thompson Teams Up with Speedstar Motorsport to Race the Canadian Touring Car Championship

    Parker Thompson has been enlisted by adventurous Canadian race team, Speedstar Motorsport (SSM), to pilot the #1 Audi R8 LMS GT4 race car in the Canadian Touring Car Championship GT Sport class. The season opens this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park as part of the Castrol Victoria Day SpeedFest. Thompson will start race 1 from pole position after setting the fastest time of any CTCC entrant during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session.

    Speedstar Motorsport has a rich history in the Canadian Touring Car Championship. With connections that extend all around the world, the team has also participated in China Formula Grand Prix, the infamous Macau FIA GT World Cup and recently challenged the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

    Parker Thompson

    “I want to express my gratitude to Albert Au and Frank Law of Speedstar Motorsport, and Michael Croxon at New Roads Automotive Group for this opportunity. I have a lot of respect for what they have accomplished in racing and look forward to building a relationship with their team. It is a dream of mine to get behind the wheel of an Audi GT car.  I’m excited about my future with the team and manufacturer as I put my mark on sportscar GT racing.”

    Frank Law – SSM Project Director

    “We are thrilled to have Parker joining us for the 2019 CTCC season. We’ve been very keen and have been following Parker throughout his outstanding open-wheel racing career. Ever since our initial conference with Parker, we have been very enthusiastic about the prospect of having him join our team. We have heard great passion from Parker about our team accomplishments and future goals. Additionally, partnering with Parker is in line with our team vision to develop young, talented Canadian drivers within the GT car family. Great to welcome Parker, and have him represent our team, sponsors and manufacturer!”

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND LINKS

    Speedstar Motorsport – https://speedstar.com/motorsport/
    Canadian Touring Car Championship – https://touringcar.ca
    Castrol Victoria Day SpeedFest  – Full Event Schedule (PDF)

    CTCC Event One Schedule at Castrol Victoria Day SpeedFest

    Race 1– Saturday May 18th, 2019, 08:00 – 08:40 EST – LIVE STREAM HERE
    Qualifying 2 – Sunday May 19th, 2019, 09:00 – 09:30 EST
    *Race 2– Sunday May 19th, 2019, 17:35 – 18:15 EST – 
    LIVE STREAM HERE


    About Parker Thompson

    Red Deer, Alberta native Parker Thompson is regarded as one of Canada’s premiere racing drivers. He started racing karts at age 8 and his natural talent and competitive drive quickly elevated him to international level competitions. By age 13 he was ranked 3rd in the world in Rotax Max karts. Now 21 years old, Parker continues his successful career racing on the Road to Indy, and in multiple sports car series.

    About SpeedStar Motorsport (SSM)

    Based out of Markham, Ontario, Speedstar Motorsport has a background in motorsports that dates back to 2006. The team has a winning history in the Canadian Touring Car Championship, Porsche GT3 Cup,  China Formula Grand Prix and Macau FIA World Cup. SSM recently partnered with Belgium based WRT to contend in the Rolex 24hrs of Daytona. The team took their Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo to a 3rd place finish in GTD.


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    The hardest choice of this long weekend: Raptors or ‘Game of Thrones’?

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    TORONTO — As a “Game of Thrones” fanatic who is also a devoted Toronto Raptors fan, Oriana Di Nucci finds herself weighing the pros and cons of what to watch this Sunday when the fantasy saga concludes at the same time her beloved team h…


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  • TORONTO — As a “Game of Thrones” fanatic who is also a devoted Toronto Raptors fan, Oriana Di Nucci finds herself weighing the pros and cons of what to watch this Sunday when the fantasy saga concludes at the same time her beloved team hosts its first home game of the NBA Eastern Conference final.

    Despite the ubiquity of on-demand viewing, watching event programming live on a traditional television is still the preferred mode to experience mammoth meme-able moments, says the pop culture junkie. But she is still kicking herself for switching to “Game of Thrones” last Sunday just before Kawhi Leonard scored an astonishing buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the playoffs’ second round.

    This Sunday will feature a similar double-draw, when the most critical moments of the Raptors’ Game 3 will almost certainly overlap with the first half-hour or so of the “Game of Thrones” 80-minute finale.

    But Game 3 is a much different proposition than a deciding Game 7, says Di Nucci, who will risk missing another Raptor moment to watch “Game of Thrones” live with her family.

    “I’m really bad at accidentally spoiling things a lot. It’s not good for me and my friends who hadn’t watched it yet,” she explains, expecting both social media and traditional media to be awash with GoT details Sunday night and Monday morning.

    Despite pronouncements that event television is dead, Di Nucci believes the fear-of-missing-out drives many to the tube, often with friends and family in tow.

    And anyway, the advent of time-shifting and on-demand viewing has addressed remote control battles that would have split family viewing just a few years ago, adds sports fan Keith Morris.

    “I’m in my thirties and I remember back then Dad would have been downstairs watching the game and somebody else that was into the show would have been upstairs,” he says, noting screens are also more likely to run simultaneously in the same room.

    “But now with technology you can kind of do it all.”

    This Sunday, Morris will be at his friend’s condo with about 10 others for what’s primarily considered a GoT finale party. But the game will be on, and he expects most guests to trickle in during the second quarter.

    It’ll be especially hard to avoid Raptors fever when they return home Sunday, even with a “Game of Thrones” finale, he predicts.

    “The city is definitely on fire. We have a chance this year,” says the Missouri-born Morris, also devoted to watching the St. Louis Blues chase the NHL’s Stanley Cup.

    Raptors fan Heba Habib of Pickering, Ont., says the choice isn’t hard for her, since Crave makes “Game of Thrones” available as soon as it airs on HBO at 9 p.m. ET. Generally speaking, she ignores linear broadcast.

    “I’ve never really watched television live. I normally watch on-demand, or I watch whenever I have the time. It’s only live games that I normally watch (live),” says Habib, who’ll join a dozen friends to watch Sunday’s game, followed by “Game of Thrones.”

    She says her parents will stay home to focus on the game. 

    Indeed, the proliferation of mass media has actually made the notion of mass consumption less and less the reality, says York University film professor John McCullough.

    “That’s the contradictory thing,” he chuckles. “It seems we have more mass media at our disposal nowadays but in fact the way that mass media (and) content is produced is actually (encouraging) fragmented audiences.”

    That was certainly the case last week for Di Nucci, who watched the Raptors with her sister and parents on the living room TV until she and her father commandeered the set for “Game of Thrones.”

    Her mom and sister were relegated to an upstairs bedroom to finish the game between the Raptors and visiting Philadelphia 76ers. Di Nucci soon realized that was a mistake “based on their yelling and running around.”

    “The timing was not great, right? sighs the 21-year-old.

    “I wish I saw Kawhi’s last shot live. I wish I saw it in the moment, but it happens. It happens. I’ll be there for the next one. I’ll be there for the next big win.”

    Bell Media says “Game of Thrones” has been averaging 2.5 million viewers each week in its Sunday 9 p.m. ET time slot, with no indication that fans delayed viewing habits for the Raptors.

    Sportsnet says last Sunday’s Game 7 attracted an average audience of 2.2 million viewers, a big jump over a typical game. A peak audience of 3.8 million tuned in to catch Leonard’s buzzer-beater.

    If Di Nucci had another screen available at the time, she expects she would have caught Leonard’s shot but she was using her phone to text a friend during “Game of Thrones,” which was being streamed to the television via her laptop.

    There’s no escaping spoilers when a popular entertainment juggernaut captivates social media, says Meg Wheeler of Toronto. For that reason, “Game of Thrones” trumps all viewing, and did so last Sunday when she convinced her partner to switch from Game 7 to watch the series live.

    “We are both so active on Twitter that we know it’ll get spoiled if we don’t watch it live,” says the 28-year-old, admitting to some regret for missing Leonard’s shot.

    “I don’t feel it was that big of a deal — I’ve seen it now so many times replayed — but there is something special about seeing it happen live. It’s one of those things where you would remember where you were when it happened.”

    Habib, meanwhile, has worked out key house rules for watching a delayed “Game of Thrones”: “Nobody can go on social media.”

    “We’re good. As long as it’s not a blowout, we will always watch Raptors first,” she says.

    Being respectful is key, adds Morris, citing past experience in asserting the difficulty of reading online leaks without spoiling the fun for others.

    “If they’re searching through Twitter or people are live tweeting and they’re reading it and they’re getting spoiled, you can kind of read on their face what’s going on,” he says.

    “That’s when we decided to say: ‘Everyone put your phones on the table and turn them over and for 20 minutes let’s just watch the rest of this game and be present in this Toronto moment.'”

    Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press


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