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AP file photo by Damian Dovarganes / Caitlyn Jenner, the 1976 Olympic decathlon gold medalist and reality TV personality now running for governor of California, said she opposes transgender girls competing in girls' sports at school, telling a TMZ reporter Saturday that it's "a question of fairness."

Finally. An expert to weigh in on the transgender sports debate. Or should Caitlyn Jenner — the 1976 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon when she still answered to Bruce Jenner — be considered an expert in such things, since the 71-year-old didn't come out as a transgender woman until 2015?

Nevertheless, the most famous transgender athlete on the planet — who also just happens to be a candidate to replace California governor Gavin Newsom in a recall election — told a small group of media on Saturday that she's opposed to "bological boys who are trans competing in girls' sports in school. It just isn't fair. And we have to protect girls' sports in our schools. (It's) a question of fairness."

It's a question that's becoming more contentious by the day after five states have either passed laws (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee) or implemented executive orders (South Dakota) this year limiting the ability of transgender youth to play sports or receive certain medical treatment.

The fear, of course, is reportedly just what Jenner expressed over the weekend — allowing those who were considered males at birth to play female sports as they grew older would dramatically unlevel the playing field for girls' sports.

Anyone should be able to see the logic behind the argument. The majority of males, especially athletes, tend to be bigger, stronger and faster than most females in their age groups. Parents opposed to allowing transgender athletes to compete almost assuredly envision a female Shaquille O'Neal controlling the paint in a high school girls' basketball game. Or a female Mark McGwire — minus the steroids, of course — swatting softballs out of the yard. Or a female Rafa Nadal acing serves on the tennis court.

And theoretically that could happen, though there's apparently been scant, if any evidence of that to date.

That doesn't mean it hasn't scared a lot of people into assuming the worst.

In fact, when Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed the legislation necessary to ban transgender athetes transitioning from male to female in the Volunteer State, he wrote on Twitter on March 26: "I signed the bill to preserve women's athletics and ensure fair competition. This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX and I commend members of the General Assembly for their bipartisan work."

Is it fair? If you're the parent of a transgender athlete impacted by such a ruling, you almost certainly would not think so. And the NCAA has already come out saying it would not hold championships in states with anti-transgender laws.

But the other side may have a point as well. For now, it might be best to follow the Olympic model, which will wait until after this summer's Tokyo Games, assuming they're staged, to make a decision on such athletes.

As an example of how few athletes may fall into the transgender pool, of 11,000 athletes expected to reach the Tokyo Games, currently only three — BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe of the United States, Brazilian volleyball player Tifanny Abreu and weightlifter Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand — identify as transgender women.

Still, Jenner's comments are sure to have some impact on the ongoing debate. He competed as a man at the highest level of track and field. Whether Jenner would have been allowed to compete as a woman in a women's event is another matter. That was 45 years ago. Science was less advanced. So was our understanding of the LBGTQ community. A lot has changed since then, hopefully for the better.

For now, were it me making the call, I'd wait two years to block any transgender athlete from competing. Let's study the impact they might have in girls sports. Is there a profound difference in their athletic skills over those born female? Have they dramatically altered the chase for championships? Or is this much ado about nothing, fear triumphing over facts and science?

One thing is certain, and the words come from International Olympic Committee medical and scientific director Richard Budgett.

Said Budgett recently of whatever ruling the IOC ultimately makes on the transgender issue: "Whatever is put in place will undoubtedly upset a lot of people."

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

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