In sports, the kind bites on the next hallway

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Throughout the week, Le Temps examines the new societal challenges which, on a daily basis, challenge sports movements and question their organization, their values, their economic model and their future.

First episode: From records to progressivism

An athletics track is divided into concentric lanes, usually eight. To ensure equality of opportunity – a fundamental principle of the sport – is respected, the starting locations are shifted for any distance greater than 110 m, in compensation for the additional distance caused in the bends as one moves away from the interior hallway. The corridors are separated by a continuous white line, which has the same function as that of our roads. Crossing it, or even just putting your foot on it – we say “bite” – results in automatic and immediate disqualification. Because there is a breach of equality.

This organization that looks like a worldview is faltering today. The white paint fades, the lines become dotted, the borders become blurred. Athletes bite in the next lane and are disqualified – since there is a breach of equality – but now protest, contest even before the civil courts, in the name of this same equality and with the support of militant movements, States and a large part of public opinion. These athletes are most often either transgender, born male but identifying as female, or intersex, born with sexual characteristics that do not correspond to standard definitions of male or female bodies. Gender, say specialists, is not a binary reality but a continuum between two poles. A track without lanes.