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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Is your fitness Guru a Master of Sociology or a Master of Science?

I probably shouldn't have posted. I probably should have ignored it.  

But, there it was staring back at me on Facebook. It was clearly a sensationalistic post. Something that a social media expert posts just to get a reaction.

It was just a step too far for me to ignore.  Someone said weightlifting is unsafe for the "general population of adults", and he was unqualified to say it.

Counter sensationalistic statement: Non-Olympic lifting expert says weightlifting is too dangerous for you, the general population. And, he just called you "old".


Many people walk into to my gym, thousands really. I don't always remember everyone, especially if they are just in for the day.   I do remember when people quit inexplicably.

I remember the first couple times I met Ben Bruno.  He was quiet, mild mannered.  He just graduated Columbia University with a degree in sociology. He apparently was in the area to visit family. He seemed intent on learning Olympic lifting. I was hung-up on the thought that someone who just got a degree from an Ivy League school in Sociology wouldn't be out applying it. It was also around the time I was having deep discussion on sociology with a non-weightlifting friend of mine. And, then one of my lab mates at MIT was starting long discussions on Milgrams experiments and somehow tied that back to us aero-astro students.  So, it was oddly synchronistic, and it oddly stuck-out.

Anyhow, we had a good rapport going; at least, I thought.  Then, a few days later, like that, he disappeared.  Trying to be an honorable person, I sent him a message or two checking if he still wanted to lift. I don't recall hearing anything back, and we were facebook friends.

A few months later, I saw an article on Bulgarian split squats by some guy working with Mike Boyle.  And, it was authored by a Ben Bruno-- the same guy that was just in my gym.   Well, good for him; Mike Boyle was probably one of the biggest names in New England for fitness at the time.

The only problem with the article was that, well, I've trained in Bulgaria. I have literally trained with Olympic Gold medalists, World Champions, and European champions, and guess what, none of them did split squats.  This must have been 2010-2011, which was still the height of "Bulgarian system hysteria",  where any clown with a computer wrote fake or exaggerated internet lore of what the Bulgarian system was.  Yes, it is not my job to be the internet police, but sometimes for the greater good of mankind (ie the truth on Bulgarian training) , you need to speak up. As it struck a cord, I had to comment with a link to actual Bulgarian training we filmed.

When it comes to facebook, being a "friend" does not necessarily mean anything other than you may have some tiny shared interests in common with so-called facebook friends.  I have more facebook friends than I can count.  Periodically, people I haven't seen in years pop-up.  I'm sure in the last 7 years a handful of Ben Bruno statuses popped-up showing his latest training conquest.  So, with maybe 3 data points, it looked like Ben had climbed some social fitness ladder-- from Mike Boyle to Chelsea Handler. And his image looked like every other "fitness guru": a thick looking guy in a red shirt with his arms crossed with some facial hair. It's a masculine pose saying, "hey, I know what I'm doing, follow me".  Anyhow, good for him.  I'm happy anytime someone succeeds, why not.

So, here comes data point number 4-- a twitter snapshot, not even a post, talking, implying Olympic weightlifting is not fit for the general population.  If we look at this from a data perspective, Mr Bruno's twitter post is factually incorrect. There's insufficient data to support his comment.

There's far more data to say most adults will get sports injuries from playing recreational sports like soccer, basketball, tennis, or softball.   You don't even need to google it-- just walk into any physical therapy office-- most adults are being treated a bad knee from playing a pick-up game of basketball, or hurt their shoulder playing softball in their office league, or tore their ACL during ski season.  So, with the logic in Ben's tweet, most adults should never play basketball.

So, why would someone make a, perhaps, exaggerated statement?  Maybe because they are a sociologist, and their expertise lies in building a social media following.  Maybe because it is a sensationalistic statement. Its like saying the "Yankees suck"-- 50% of people will agree , 50% of people will want to kill you  -- either way, you get a huge reaction.

Yes, normally, I would ignore sensationalism, but, today, I couldn't. Because, effectively blacklisting a sport- that has done so much for so many-- just to get a twitter reaction is wrong.  I mean are strong women like Chelsea Handler being denied the opportunity to reap the benefits of snatching and clean and jerking because they are not "young" or not "men".  I've trained people from 65 year olds to 8 years old in lifting; everyone can learn to Olympic lift if taught by a real coach. 

And for those of you thinking, "well, why Olympic lift when you can just do other weight training" , my dear friends, you are missing the point. Olympic weightlifting does what no other barbell or machine training can do - it improves your reflexes.  It uses your sympathetic nervous system*, which means you will be faster and more explosive, and more able to react quickly without thinking in stressful situations.   It makes you better at every other sport. It makes you better at normal everyday things like avoiding a car accident, saving your child or dog from falling, catching a ball...even cooking.  Aside from that, it's more efficient at building bone density and muscle than using cute little dumbells to "Bulgarian split squats".

But hey, what do I know, I'm just a rocket scientist.  Maybe Ben can give me some advice on how to be more sensationalistic. 

Peace & Love


*Reference: Fundamentals of the Soviet System: The Soviet Weightlifting System                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Closing Time-Every new beginning comes from some other beginings End

"Closing Time.  Every new beginning comes from some other beginings End"
- Semisonic, "Closing Time"

Today marks the end of an era, the day Risto Sports shuts its Maine training center and goes on the great American voyage to Florida.   Yes, we are trading one Vacationland for another vacation land of sorts.  We are reverse snowbirding this summer.

In just  few days, Risto Sports will be relocated in Merritt Island, Florida , just a stones throw from NASA's historic launch site, the very stretch of land graced by the likes of Buzz Aldren and John Glenn.

We leave riding a synchronistic wind of change.  We did a lot right here in Maine, and now its time to go and spread the good word of weightlifting elsewhere.

When we came to Maine, there was no lifting in Maine. Ok, there was a powerlifting gym in Westbrook, Gilly's Gym in Waterville,   but nothing you would call a dedicated - heart and soul- weightlifting gym.  We were here long before crossfit dotted the land with boxes.

When we first came, it must have been over 25 year since a weightlifting meet had ever been held in Maine.  So little lifting was going on, that around 2010, Maine LWC was absorbed into the New England LWC, probably where it really belonged.

I first came here lifting for Coffee's Gym. I lifted again for East Coast Gold. Then, finally, we created Risto Sports, which only made sense after we built our weightlifting oasis in Eliot, ME. Interestingly, Coffee's Gym also closed this weekend, sadly , for good.

In 2011, we held the first weightlifting meet in about 30+ years in Maine.  The legacy we left for Maine doesn't end there, there's a lot more:

1-We had the only National medalists from Maine whilst here
-- Me, Gwendolyn Sisto, too many damn gold, silver, and bronze medals at national level meets to count.  Yes, I am dead serious, I lost count
-- Gwendolyn Rojas- two National Youth Championships Golds (she only collects gold medals apparently)
-- Emily McNally - youth national championships bronze
--Amylynne Frankel- National Masters Silver

2- We trained olympic medalists right in Eliot, Maine
- Maryam Usman, trained for several months with us in Maine, Olympic Bronze Medalist
- Luz Mercedes Acosta, also trained a few months with us in Maine, Olympic Bronze Medalist
- Diego Salazar, trained multiple, multiple times with us in Maine, Olympic Silver Medalist
-Honorary mention- Dmitry Klokov, Olympic Silver Medalist, did his photo shoot for his klokovequipment.com launch right in our gym. He commented, "this IS a weightlifting gym" , probably the biggest honor we could get from him.
Klokov Russian-izing my start position at Risto Sports in Maine. Me, I'm like, "dude, I learned my starting position from Cuban National Coach Alfredo Gonzalez"  Who did it better Cubans or Russians? lol

3- We gave Maine the only people from Maine on National teams of any kind
- Gwendolyn Rojas competed at the Youth International invitational, and, ofcourse, brought home gold to Maine.
- Gwendolyn Sisto, World University Team whilst being a Maine resident.
-- funny story, at the time, I was going to MIT- Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The friggin' intern at USAW actually changed the as entered national meet results to read "Maine Institute of Technology" , because she couldn't believe that a person from Maine would go to the real MIT.  Not sure if that was a Freudian slip on her behalf or says something about what she thinks of Maine-iacs.
- Gwendolyn Sisto , World Masters Games medalist
- Rob Morrison, World Masters Cup Champion

4- We gave Maine possibly the Only Maine person to ever hold an IWF world record
- Gwendolyn Sisto 2017 World Record Holder for 35-39, 63kg

5- One of only 3 2008 Olympic Trials athletes across every Olympic sport from Maine
- Gwendolyn Sisto, 53kg, 2008 Olympic Trials

6- Regional impact
We trained tons of people from across the globe right here in Maine. We, especially, had one of the best teams in New England.  Honestly, most people came up from the Boston and Rhode Island area to train with us.  There are many people who trained with us, only to start their own teams or keep lifting at a team closer to them.

In other words, there are several teams in New England that wouldn't have existed without us, because their coaches or key athletes- whether they like to admit or not-were trained by us.

Here's some of our contribution to the New England lifter National/International medals:
Melissa Siegel- Masters National Champion
Jessica Weisman - World Masters Champion, World Masters Games Medalist
Honorable Mention-  Kaiti Bennet, National Collegiates Medalist
Other people I am probably forgetting and will be pissed at me because I did
People we distanced trained in secret, and I can't disclose ;)
A bunch of people that will probably be added to this list soon (Russy, Giorgio Armani ;)


7. Local Eliot/ South Berwick impact
We trained an entire cohort of Marshwood high school wrestlers in Olympic Lifting.  These kids went on to win the state champions, multiple kids were all-Americans.

When I asked them why they didn't tell other kids from adjacent school districts about us, one  kid notes , "we don't want our secret to get out" .  Good for our local school district, not so good for business lol.

8. We increased the diversity in our locale by probably 200% everytime we had a training camp
I am so serious when I say Maine is probably the whitest place I have ever lived.  I remember dropping my daughter off to her first day of Kindergarten thinking, "I see blonde people".   Everyone is either some kind of white- like Northern European white- or Native American. Oh, and almost all the white people claim to be part Native American.  I am not making this shit up. Good thing the "racial appropriation" police haven't taken up shop in Portland, Maine as the have in Portland, Oregon.  Ok, there are "black people" in Maine, just almost all of them were born in Somalia.  Maine is home to many Somalian Muslim refugees.  And, we all get along =)

Maine people seem to have been exposed to so little diversity that they tend not to be racist at all and find new cultures as a novelty.  This is also a sentiment that a "real Maine" person relayed to me.  (Apparently, if 3 generations of your family weren't born here, then you can never really be "from Maine", thus I must seek out a "real Maine" person's opinion for legitimacy.)

Getting back on topic....
Just look at our Risto Sports photos. Completely unintentionally, we are probably one of the most diverse teams in the USAW if your consider our diversity make-up versus diversity make-up of our location.
On top of that, we also tend to train a lot of athletes from across South America - Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Panama , Cuba, etc. We brought Dr Herrera here. And of course , we've hosted the entire coaching staff from Kazakhstan(central Asia).

Outside of Olympic Medalists, we've had Youth and Junior World Champion Neisi Dajomes lift in our center, her coach Mayra Hoyos,   Pam AM champions Johnny Andica, Elio Guerra, and Carlos Andica lift with us. And, Rocio Navarro of Panama.

So, everytime we have a big training session, you will probably find the highest concentration in York county, Maine of Asians, Latinos, Black, Jews, LGBTQ, and other so-called minorities right in our gym.  Again, I don't know how it all worked out this way, it just did, and I think its cool.

In a nutshell, we did a ton for the state of Maine when it comes to establishing a weightlifting legacy. I'm not sure anyone in Maine actually recognizes this.  Although people in the area seemed to appreciate us, most never took substantial time to hang out with us. Ok, they came to a seminar or two, and, yes, I do appreciate this.  But, dude, we were RIGHT HERE. WE were right in the same state. For the first time, there were actual weightlifting people driving distance to you, and you only stopped by a handful of times. I mean WTF people?  You know, when I was a kid,  I would have died to have lived so close to a gym that was regularly pumping olympians in and out of its doors.   Do you know how many people have approached me with the same comment, " Ohh you're leaving. I'm so sad. I should have came by sooner."

On the positive, we leave Maine with a few of our lifters holding the torch in their crossfit boxes and garage gyms.  I hope, for Maine's sake, USAW-elite-level lifting will carry-on, carry-on.

As for Florida, I know you guys already have a few good gyms, and you actually have weightlifting as a high school sport. I'm sure there's room for one more.   I think the space coast can use a pure Olympic lifting beacon. It's a big state.  Glad to be here.

My non-lifting thoughts on Maine:
Maine is an awesome place.  It is gorgeous , in all 3 of its seasons- Fall, Winter, and Summer (we don't have a spring...its either snowing or hot during "spring").  The coast is incredible. Its so majestic; it has character with every jagged, rocky-edged cliff.   We have lots of pine trees and moose. Though I still haven't seen a moose. I never lived anywhere before where access to nature and free-nature based activities were so readily available.  In winter, you can ice skate on a pond or ski down a little hill.  The summer and fall the ocean is rife with activity. You can go to some revolutionary war fort or 17th century house or park-like forest and just enjoy walking around in nature, peaking at the ocean or the river with your dog.  You can really have unfettered, free adventures.  If your backyard is big enough, you could go shooting right outside.  And, the place abounds with organic and locally grown food. Traffic is nil, or at least incredibly predictable. The tourists will never learn that there is zero traffic before noon and after 5:30 on a summer Sunday afternoon.  Maine is utopia----almost.

So, I will miss Maine.

I need to leave though.  We were just kind of stagnating in Maine. Like, we were at a good level, and if we wanted to see a revolutionary change in our progress then we needed to change. Secondly, there is a metaphysical force sweeping me to Florida , or , maybe, France. And, that is something for me to write about another time, perhaps, when you are more ready to hear it.

Maine, It's been good. See ya around bae.




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Breaking the World Record- 2017 World Masters Games Championships

I am back in America after 2 weeks between Auckland and Dubai!  I am coming home to America holding the World Record in the Snatch in women's 63kg at 35-39, the Games record in the snatch, and a medal.   I also broke 4 Games records in the process.  

Another highlight was an Australian coach telling me that my article on UCL rehab helped save his lifter's bid at the Australian Junior World Team; it's pretty cool to do a good deed just through writing.

Breaking the World Record and becoming the undisputed best snatcher in the world is a pretty awesome feeling. There are many champions and fewer World Record holders. So, I feel I accomplished my top goal for the championships.

It was a hell of a journey getting here...I had many trials and pulled it all together at the last minute.

The Journey

My journey started back in September. I had just done 80/100 at the Olympia Cup in Vegas,  narrowly missing 83/104 weighing around 66-67kg.  2 weeks later, I attended the 2016 World Masters Championships as coach.  The top 63kg did 168kg; the top 69kg did around 174kg.  Then, I hear the World Masters Games are in New Zealand and the World Records are weights I've lifted more than in the past.  So, why not throw down and try out this whole master thing?

***Know what you are*****


Training was going awesome….until Christmas.  It was somewhere around December 27th, I had the week off before starting my training for the World Masters Games.  A dear friend of mine invited me to go skiing. He’s an expert skier among other things.  I, on the other hand, can count the number of times I’ve skied. 

I get to the mountain, Its dark. Its two for Tuesdays night skiing.  My friend is late.  I wind up getting on the wrong lift; I couldn’t even see where the lift let off because it was past the top of the mountain.  It was so dark.   It was like the worst theme park ride ever: I’m alone on this slowly moving, rickety wooden thing, barely held in.   Its bobbling along, swinging in the lonely darkness, and I have no idea where its going. I just sit in it, holding on, hoping I don’t accidently slip out to the pile of boulders 50 feet below.  

After realizing that I put myself on a near deserted triple black diamond slope in the dark,  all I can think is "If I kill myself getting down this mountain, my coach is gonna kill me."

Anyhow, being alone, I ski the parts that are reasonable (*cough* no death turns)  and hike down the actual triple diamond parts.  Well, way to jump into it after a year off from only the second time ever that I ever skied on an actual resort hill.

So, I make it down alive, and there is my friend.  I tell myself, I am going home before I get killed.  But…I drove all the way up here and spent money, I'm not going to have a chance to go skiing again until next season.  ....   Anyhow, my friend convinces me that I should stay and let him coach me.

We get off the "smaller" lift which is still fairly advanced because, apparently ,  this ski area only has “difficult hills” open  for night skiing.

At the top of the hill, we are standing to the side, ready for me to be coached. Suddenly, snow boarder plows straight into my friend, taking him out at the heels! This was not a good sign. I had never skied on something that was so icy and fast before. I cautiously ski back and forth on the hill.

He tells me to speed up, that I’m an ATHLETE, WHY IAM I BEING SO WEARY.  GO Faster! I start going faster and faster, and take more risks. Then,  I try an advanced maneuver and wind up digging the tip of my left ski into the hill, pulling my groin. This was a verifiable “oh fuck moment”. Worst part was, I still had to get down the mountain! Only way this was going to happen is if I skied down or hiked- the insult to injury.

I drove the whole way home with plastic Market Basket bag full of snow wrapped around my thigh, telling myself, “I am not a skier, I’m a weightlifter! I am not a skier, I’m a weightlifter".

I didn’t snatch over 70 kilos again until late March.  The funny thing with the groin injury is that I could clean more than my front squat without pain.  Sometimes front squatting anything over 90 kilos didn’t hurt—it would just kill me the next day.   I rode the fine line of training sore and training injured, everyday.  Two steps forward, one step back.
The battle between the negative self talk – “how could I fuck this up”-- and positive affirmations commenced. 

Aside from skiing, there were some other interesting trials and things going on in my life, that, now, lead me to the Florida Space Coast where I will be nowhere near a ski hill!

***which weight class am I?****

With the new weight class rule-- that being lighter has no more advantaged-- being a 69 held less and less appeal.  I have, yet, been able to attain a bodyweight of heavier than 67 kilos and change.  I lifted at the 2016 American Open just to post a qualifying total. weighing around 66kg.  I saw  that the top 63’s were barely touching my snatch attempts from 2014 nationals , my last competition as a 63.  And, now, with my injury, a world record was much more realistic as a 63 than a 69.

 Well, should I have been more focused on winning than world records?
I don’t know. There are fewer world record holders than world champions.  I felt it was only worth competing for a World Record. If you have a World record, you can undisputedly say you are the best at something in the world.   If you are a world champion, you may have just been the best that day.  It’s the same at any level in the sport- youth-senior-junior-master.  Maybe I’m impatient and didn't want to wait to start breaking records.

****Strategy and How I actually lifted***
The startlist showed that 63kg and 69kg were going to be competitive weight classes with top entry totals at 177kg and 204kg.  As always, in seniors and in masters, the 75kg weight class looked like a cake walk compared to the lower 2 classes.  With my leg healing, the strategy was: lift 63kg and close the session, pull everything together last minute, definitely get a world record in.  What we didn't know and couldn't have known is that the 69kg at 204kg total did not show-up to weigh ins.

This was the first meet that I had lifted as a 63kg in almost 3 years.  It was my first meet, ever, as a Master. Judging from the competition field, the strategy was to open light then take larger jumps.   My nearest competitor had lifted at several major championships as a Master (Pan Ams, Nationals) and appeared to be a veteran crossfitter. Actually, it seemed many of the 35-39 US lifters had been crossfitting longer than olympic lifting. 
Snatches went really well. They were so easy.  What's strange is that I actually went to snatch each lift versus just go for a power snatch.  This is actually a safer move since a full snatch, technically requires less energy.  I was fluid.  I put down a solid 73kg.   My competition had a lower lot number so she went first, I followed.  We went to 76, so she went to 76. She took the weight. So, we increased my second attempt to 77kg, a lift I’ve done a million times, just not since September.  This lift would break the prior world record by 2kilos.  I nailed it. 


 Then we went to 80 . I actually didn’t know that my competitor missed 80kg.  I got overly excited and cut my pull. It was easy. I had more in the gas tank.  Honestly, if I am to "Monday morning quarterback",  I think I should have just went to 82kg, because I have done 77-82kg jumps a thousand times, and I might have approached the bar more focused and made it.  I did get to close the session =)

Clean and jerk strategy was tricky.   The safe strategy is to open light, secure the medal, do 3 good lifts, put pressure on the competition.  The risk strategy would be to open light then take big jumps.  l had not cut weight in years, so we were not going to open with my "real opener" in the clean and jerk. Also, judging from the competition, there was a good chance that the safe strategy would work out for the win.  
In the warm-up room, I had so much energy that I felt tired. On the platform, it was a different story.  I FELT AWESOME.  I muscle cleaned 85kg. If I was lifting 69 without a weight cut, I probably would have opened 10 kilos higher, no joke. My 90kg was a toy. I would say the say the lift was a 9 out of 10; I caught it a smidge forward.  I think I had spaced my feet a little too wide in my start positions. 

My third was a debate.  I wanted to save it and jump to 105kg, because that was the World Record.  My coach, on the other hand, didn’t want to take too huge of a jump being I am barley back from injury.  So, we took 95kg, and, like my 80kg, because it was a light weight,   I feel like I rushed my set-up was  and I popped it forward.  Again, just sayin, I really think we should have done a repeat of my 13kg jump at the American Open.  

Call me unrealistic-- because I don't know what the words "realistic" and "impossible" mean.

 At the end of the day,  I really wanted to get a world record and be certain that a I medaled. It turned out, my total was even higher than the 75kg gold total and I would have won 69kgs.  I guess that’s why  my lifts were a World Record breaking performance- because they were good enough to win the next two higher weight classes! 

It also seemed that my story was compelling enough for me to be interviewed on World Masters Games TV.  I really feel that I captured the hearts of the audience.    I  described how I broke the world record after a near career ending injury.   Let me tell you though, if I knew what my competitors were going to say, I TOTALLY would have been like "I've only been competing for 2 weeks as a Master, and this is my first major event EVER as a Master"- that would have been funny as hell. #satire  #icanthelpmyself
There was a nice barbend write-up on this video. I would say, more than "its never too late to start", you can always leverage what you have done in the past to excel at new ventures in life.

The interviewer also asked me about competition training and "rituals" , so I explained how Risto Sports factors into all of that.  They cut out my blurb on Risto Sports (it was germain to his question, and just 5 seconds!! I swear lol) so hear it is:  I wore 2 different pairs of Risto shoes, a Risto singlet, Risto warm-up suit, my new book on the Soviet system has key strategies for training for competition, and I wore Risto wrist wraps in the process of securing the World record, a medal ,and breaking 4 Games records.   Side note, there were a ton of Australian and New Zealand lifters competing in Risto Singlets or Shoes.
Additionally, USAW had a great write-upnas well; it is great to see the organization celebrate successes https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Weightlifting/Features/2017/May/03/Team-USA-Wins-More-than-50-Medals-at-World-Masters-Games

A lot of people ask me if I’m happy.  Yes, I am very happy that I won the snatch world record.  And, I look forward to destroying all the other records, and I would like to do across a few weight classes. 



***What was it like lifting at the World Masters Games ***


The World Masters Games is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.  So, I guess its kind of like lifting at an age specific Games such as  the Youth Olympic Games or the Universiade.  There are many good things yet also many areas that could have been improved.

The filed of play was great. The competition platform had a perfect surface finish.  The lighting was bright and shined-in from the sides.  The audience area was nicely cordoned off by World Masters Games banners.  The audience seemed fairly into the competition. They seemed pretty behind me, which was awesome to feel.  (When I got my medal, I was actually announced as "Gwendolyn Sisto of Australia" if that says anything). The Officials were very professional, helpful, had a great attitude.

**Things that could have improved***

The first thing that could have been improved was training hall.  The venue had ample training areas that could have been used.  There seemed to be about 3 different areas just by the competition area that had training platforms built into the floor.  It would have been ideal to have a section of training hall platforms right at the venue.

Ok, so maybe for some reason the organizers couldn't make that happen. The solution was not that great: basically, an email was sent out with a lift of places offering training, many asking a fee per session, many with only limited time slots. We were basically on our own to figure it out.  

This is problematic as New Zealand is on one of the least populated continents in the world. So, most people would be traveling long distances to this competition. Most people would need to acclimate. Hence, out of any place in the world, New Zealand is one place where would want to have  easy to figure out training timetables and locations all posted and ironed out before the competition.

 Some of the rules were inconsistently applied. For example, there is some rule at Masters that you can always move up a weight class the day of weigh ins; however, the organizing committee sent out an email indicating that the final verification of entries was when the final startlist would be published implying no further changes. 

Then, there is the legless singlet debate. One lifter in the women’s 69kg 35-39 wore a legless singlet and was made to change it or be withdrawn from the competition.

This is the most laughable thing I have ever heard for two reasons: 1—We weightlifters have fought for the right to wear legged singlets and weightlifting suits with sleeves, why would anyone want to wear a retro legless singlet? AND 2- how could legless singlets ever be illeagal? Prior to the early 90’s, there was a rule that singlets could not cover the thighs.

My dear people, do you see how backward the situation is?  The weightlifting community is willing give up its right to have legged singlets and some officials in the IWF are now forgetting that legless singlets used to be the standard mandated for decades.

As a side bar, of course legged singlets give you an advantage because there is less friction on the singlet fabric than skin. But, hey, people do crazy things for style. I’ll probably start making legless ones at some point.

Another improvement area was the disconnect between the world masters games regulations and how the weightlifting competition was run. The World Masters Games website was pretty clear that coaches needed to register for credentials.  Really, only athletes needed to. The weightlifting was run much like a normal Masters meet- the athletes were given a coaching pass. If there was more than one athlete per country in your session, then you totally got shafted on getting a coaching pass if you had a higher lot number.   However, the warm-up room was so spacious, that control on passes wasn't that strict.  So, it seemed everyone got to bring their coach in the back.

*****Drug testing**********

Drug testing went home at like 5 o’clock. Like, no shit, they literally didn't test anyone in the evening sessions day 7.  WADA,  never around when you want them to be.... bahahaha.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Did Texas's UIL just say its ok for teenagers to Dope?

Editors note: Let me first start this post with the following background.  I  work with, know, and am friends with many LGBTAQ people. This includes transgender people.  I am willing to accept anyone who treats others with kindness and respect. Likewise, it is still important that we talk about the how we can make sure that everyone has the opportunity to compete in sport, while being fair.  It is better to resolve conflict than to let it fester.


In the world of the IOC and WADA, taking a steroid hormone like testosterone is considered DOPING.  There are now penalties for up to 4 years of suspension for taking testosterone among other hormones.  Likewise, in some very limited cases, an athlete is allowed to take male steroid hormones if they satisfy a "therapeutic use exemption" (TUE).

Recently, a teenage wrestler who was born a female and is taking testosterone, a male steroid hormone, to transition to male, won a girls wrestling division in Texas.

A brief synopsis of the story is such:
Mack Beggs was transitioning from their birth gender of female to "male".   They wanted to compete in the boy's division.  The UIL (University Interscholastic League) dictated that they had to compete in the division of their birth gender.  At the time they were competing,  they were openly taking steroid hormones to "transition to male".   This created a lose-lose situation where 1) Beggs had to compete as a girl, even though they were transitioning to male, and 2) the female athletes had to compete against an athlete with an unfair testosterone advantage or a "doped-up" athlete.

The UIL clearly prohibits doping such as taking of steroids.  This is evident as the UIL clearly references WADA in anti-doping policies, therefore, they were inconsistent with WADA guidelines on handling trans-athletes and doping.

How transgendered athletes on steroid hormones are supposed to be addressed
WADA's policy, to paraphrase is such: basically, a trans athlete has to take "hormone therapy" for two years, then they can compete in the "gender" division they desire.   It requires multiple medical exams and documentation as well as getting an approved TUE. The athlete is allowed to compete in the new "gender" only after 2 years of therapy. (one can argue, these guidelines are insufficient especially for male-to-female athletes as strength gains for a male during puberty are not erased by taking female hormones. This is another topic).

Balancing eachother's natural freedoms
On one hand, sports are so important to our culture because they help connect our physical reality to our spiritual reality.  It takes both heart, intellect, and physicality to be the best athlete.

Certainly, for a teen dealing with gender identity issues, it is probably a good thing for them to compete in a sport.

On the other hand, the UIL created a condition where an athlete was allowed to take steroid hormones, out of accordance with WADA guidelines, and still compete against clean athletes.

In the real world of professional and olympic sports, this is calling permitting DOPING.

In sports involving explosive strength like wrestling, track, and weightlifting, steroids can provide a huge advantage.  Just look at the re-tests of the Olympic drug tests from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games of weightlifters. Almost all the weightlifters who tested positive in the re-tests won medals. In effect, there is a documented competitive advantage of taking steroid hormones.

What the UIL should have done- be creative!

There are many ways we can give trans-kids the opportunity to compete whilst keeping the playing field fair to everyone else.  Here are some options:

Option 1- Probably the least safe and practical- everybody dopes
If the UIL is going to let Beggs take testosterone, then they need to let every other female athlete that Beggs was competing against take the same steroid hormones.  And, to make it even more fair, make sure their hormone levels are testing in the same range for the same length of time.

Option 2- What Beggs requested - compete as a trans-F-to-M Boy!
Have Beggs follow WADA guidelines for female to male trans athletes, then compete in the boy's division. ( note: This might also cause some inequities.  Boys, like girls, have a natural hormonal cycle.  Because Beggs is taking synthetic hormones at prescribed dosages, they may actually have an advantage of having level testosterone hormones year round)

Option 3-  Create an un-gendered division
Create some sort of "open division" where anyone can compete.  Maybe have males "transitioning" to female compete against females transitioning to male.

Option 4- Probably the most equitable but least feasible option
Create more than 2 gender divisions.  Do you know a tiny percent of the population is intersex?  There are people born with only an X chromosone. There are people born XXY (true "hermaphrodites"?). There are men born with vaginas. There are women born with penises.  And, then, of course, there are transgender people who feel, as Caitlyn Jenner put, " were born with the soul" of the opposite sex.

Any of the 4 options presented above would have been more fair then what went down this weekend in Texas.

(Side thoughts: Why did the UIL let this problem fester in the girls division. Would it have been more scandalous to the UIL for Beggs to have competed as  trans-boy in the boys division?  )


Conclusion

The UIL did none of the above. If anything what they did was lazy.  They forced an athlete in transition, to compete as a doped-up girl, when Beggs really wanted to just compete as a transgender-female-to-male boy.

By failing to take an equitable stance on Beggs' situation, the UIL created an environment where Beggs had an unfair advantage over their competitors.  If anything, the organization violated its own procedures on doping by allowing a trans athlete to compete in a manner inconsistent with WADA guidelines. As the UIL references WADA in their constitution, they should have simply enforced that Beggs to file a Therapeutic Use Exemption, complete all medical history documentation, and take hormones for a minimum of 2 years per  WADA guidelines.  Then and only then should Beggs compete and  compete in the boys division.


UIL's antithetical actions made a mockery of the sport. By not following their own references to WADA guidelines, they sent a message that "its ok to dope".  Because of their ( perhaps cowardly) actions, clean athletes were denied their rightful placements and Beggs was put in the awkward position of  competing as a doped up athlete. Basically, the UIL created a Lose/ Lose situation for all the wrestlers, including Beggs.

Final thoughts to the angry mob
Remember, this situation is due to adults failing kids. If anyone wants to be angry, then be angry at the UIL.

References:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/highschools/meet-the-texas-wrestler-who-won-a-girls-state-title-his-name-is-mack/2017/02/25/982bd61c-fb6f-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.48bd07586e97

http://www.uiltexas.org/site/search?cx=006910494062867778790%3Aaazkbtwv1gu&cof=FORID%3A10&ie=UTF-8&q=doping&sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa=Search

https://www.uiltexas.org/files/constitution/uil-ccr-section-1207-1210.pdf

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