Why ‘Meaningful Competition’ is not fair competition

Pike, Jon (2023). Why ‘Meaningful Competition’ is not fair competition. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 50(1) pp. 1–17.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00948705.2023.2167720


In this paper I discuss a new conception that has arrived relatively recently on the scene, in the context of the debate over the inclusion of transwomen (hereafter TW) in female sport. That conception is ‘Meaningful Competition’ (hereafter MC) – a term used by some of those who advocate for the inclusion of TW in female sport if and only if they reduce their testosterone levels. I will argue that MC is not fair. I understand MC as a substitute concept, as an attempt to substitute for the perfectly serviceable concept of fair competition. It is an attempt at conceptual engineering that should be resisted. This is important because some International Federations have accepted MC as good coin, and the underlying theory of MC, which I explicate for the first time, underpins the stance taken by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) in its Framework Document. To establish that the inclusion of TW in female sport meets the criteria of MC in the sense I explicate here, does not show that the inclusion of TW in female sport is fair. Such inclusion is not fair, and the proper currency of sport is fair competition. ‘Meaningful Competition’, on the other hand, is a snare and a delusion.

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