Caitlyn Jenner may be the first woman to hold a gold medal in the Olympic men’s decathlon, and the International Olympic Committee is fine with that.
“Bruce Jenner won his gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games and there is no issue for the IOC,” communications director Mark Adams told Yahoo on Thursday, using Jenner’s name from before she announced her transition this year.
The remarks came in response to a Change.org petition urging the committee to revoke Jenner’s medal on the basis that it was won by a woman competing in a male event. The petitioners’ reasoning was unusual. “It is only fair to all involved that women receive their credit as champions of the Decathalon and that the men racing Ms. Jenner are not expected to compete with a superior, streamlined being such as herself,” it reads. The petition had almost 14,000 signatures as of Friday morning.
The petition was created by a user named Jennifer Bradford from Fort Worth, Tex., though there have been some reports that the petition is actually a hoax concocted by users on 4chan, the Reddit-like anonymous forum notorious for releasing stolen nude photos of celebrities last year. That theory is based on a message reportedly posted on the site’s /b/ forum, the locus of most of 4chan’s racist, graphic and otherwise problematic material, proposing a fake petition to “f— with feminists” and transgender people (they used a more derogatory term).
Whether or not that poster was actually behind the petition, it certainly achieved that goal. Twitter was aflurry with indignation about the possibility that Jenner’s medal might be revoked.
Anger at the original petition even sparked a counter appeal directed at Change.org urging the site to take the first petition down. (The counter appeal has only about 1,800 signatures so far.) Change.org responded that it would remove “hateful comments” from Bradford’s petition, but was not pulling it from the Web site.
Jenner’s supporters needn’t have worried. The IOC has actually been ahead of the curve when it comes to transgender issues. Since 2004, the committee has allowed transgender athletes to compete against their chosen gender provided they have undergone sex reassignment surgery, received hormone therapy for at least two years and are legally recognized as that gender. That’s a more concrete policy than many little leagues have. The committee wasn’t likely to strip Jenner of her medal on the strength of a petition of dubious origin.