The Phelps Gambit - life’s unfair.

The Phelps Gambit runs like this:

Michael Phelps had ‘unfair’ advantages in swimming, but nobody prevented him from competing, so why should we prevent others with ‘unfair’ advantages (males) competing against anyone (females)?
Here is a thread outlining Phelps’ ‘unfair’ competitive edge over his closest competitors. It runs at less than 0.5%. His advantage over matched females is around 10-12%.

Phelps’ advantages are the stuff of legend, growing from fairly straightforward observations like, ‘He’s quite tall, with even longer arms’ to, ‘He’s got superhuman metabolism and his bones are made of Adamantium’.

(I exaggerate).
My argument against the Phelps Gambit to justify male inclusion in female sport has been, primarily, to point out that there are female swimmers who are extremely tall, with disproportionately long arms, big feet etc, who, weirdly, are some way behind Phelps in the pool.
That is, the same set of favourable swimming ‘nature + nurture’ environment creates vastly different endpoints in males and females.

(The single biggest genetic advantage Phelps has is a Y chromosome. I mean, we could regulate for that, right?)
My second approach has been to analyse how Phelps’ physique compares with his male competitors, particularly those he is slower than.

I know, right, who knew he wasn’t always the fastest swimmer?
This morning, I have been reading about Caeleb Dressel. In 2019, Dressel took Phelps’ 100m butterfly record, posting 49.50s, down 0.32s from Phelps’ 49.82.

Interestingly, this is a bigger margin that either of Phelps’ acquisitions of this record.
Dressel is shorter than Phelps, with a smaller wingspan:height ratio. He’s the same weight.

I don’t know if he has double-jointed ankles or quirky lactic acid metabolism.

I do know he isn’t considered as perfect a swimming shape as Phelps was.
So it’s a mystery how he can be faster than Phelps, right?

Well, no. Because what Dressel *does have* is an amazing start. He is incredibly strong through his legs, he positions his hips to create a slingshot effect into the water, his underwater technique is superb, and so on.
Dressel can get half a body length ahead in the first 15m.

That’s massive in swimming. Hence his large margin WR.…
Against this start, Phelps loses.

It’s almost like saying that Phelps had ‘unfair’ advantages is meaningless when you consider the wider field 🤔
Or maybe Phelps promises to never again miss a leg day. He might experiment with the slingshot technique and his leg positioning. But maybe his body proportions aren’t optimal for that. Who knows?
All this talk of the ‘unfair’ advantages of Phelps becomes a little hollow.

How can you rationally label Phelps’ advantages ‘unfair’ when he’s beaten by someone with a different set of advantages that create a ‘legendary’ start?
What we see at the discipline level in the pool are a field of great swimmers who each have unique sets of characteristics that might see them win a the odd race.

We call this ‘sport’, and it’s a marvellous spectacle.
Someone gets an edge from unusually long arms. Someone gets an edge from a great start. Someone beats the two of them with both?

Or brings something else to the table? #TeamAdamantium

(I will not be taking questions on whether Adamantium bones would provide sporting advantage)
When you dissect the Phelps Gambit it falls apart.

What you are left with is someone arguing that it’s ‘unfair’ that good swimmers are good swimmers.

And that’s just a temper tantrum.

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More from @FondOfBeetles

19 Mar
Here is a basketball analogy.

Shaun the Shortie/5’5.
He’s not tall enough to reasonably be a competitive basketballer.

Mitch the Middler/6’5. He is tall enough to be a competitive basketballer.

Tall Tony/7’5.
He was nailed on for basketball since he was born.
No amount of skill can make Shaun competitive. There’s only so far it can take you.

Tony? He doesn’t need to rely on skill, because you get it to him and he’s got a free shot every time.
Mitch is where it’s happening. There are quite a few 6’5 basketballers. It’s ‘tall enough’.

In fact, average NBA basketballer height has plateaued at about 6’7 (forgive my analogy a couple of inches).
Read 9 tweets
19 Mar
Appalling arguments from Vilain here.

"We know that men have, on average, an advantage in performance in athletics of about 10% to 12% over women"

This cited advantage is the low end (running). The difference gets much larger in other disciplines. In weightlifting, the gap is 30-40%.
"which the sports authorities have attributed to differences in levels of a male hormone called testosterone"

Read 22 tweets
12 Mar
Last night, I left work in darkness (because some of our jobs go that way, and I can’t afford security).

On the path, a man was walking towards me. I gave him a wide berth, and glanced over my shoulder as I passed him.

He’d stopped.

And then he turned to walk behind me.
He had probably remembered he needed to buy something at the shop, or he’d forgotten something at his own building.

But my own response was:

Head up. Where are the lights? Where are the doors? Which buildings are still open? How many cars are passing in the road?
I crossed the road, and slowed right down so he was ahead of me.

Nothing happened. The most likely outcome.
Read 5 tweets
12 Mar
@LaurenOxleyx If you are going to present ‘basic research’, at least do it.

1.7% of the world is not intersex. The vast majority of this figure are unambiguous females - adults, mothers, etc - with high testosterone. Do you think such females are intersex?
@LaurenOxleyx Your use of redheads as a reference value is thus inaccurate. And ironically, some of the biggest clusters of DSDs happen in populations where red hair would be unheard of.....
@LaurenOxleyx People with DSDs are not different sexes, they are males or females who, owing to genetic mutations or environmental insult, don’t follow typical development. They don’t represent a third sex.
Read 8 tweets
11 Mar
Many of these Bills are trying to impose symmetry on an inherently asymmetric situation.

Anyone should be allowed, safety assured, to ‘punch up’ a category. This is especially important when they do not have a category of their own.
There should not be barrier to a female playing in a male team (if she is safe to do so). Reframing all ‘male’ categories as ‘open’ (as many technically are) will underline this concept.
Regulating transgirls/transwomen in female sport is not mirrored by exactly the same set of concerns as regulating transboys/transmen in open-but-practically-male sport.
Read 5 tweets
6 Mar
Full contact ‘collision’ sports are those where deliberate, forceful contact against an opponent are an integral part of gameplay.

The aim of contact play may be to defend or retrieve possession of, say, a ball (e.g. rugby) or to win by disabling your opponent (e.g. boxing).
Sports federations regulating full contact sports, where contact cannot be eliminated without changing the face of the sport, have a *special duty* to minimise the potential for injury during gameplay.

See Jon Pike @runthinkwrite on this.…
This is evident in policies to, for example, limit contact to specific moves or regions of the body, to regulate how contact is enacted, and the wearing of protective gear to minimise injury potential during contact.
Read 18 tweets

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