A runner at the University of Montana became the first transgender athlete to compete in an NCAA Division I cross-country meet last week. Juniper Eastwood finished seventh in the women’s 4-kilometer race Saturday in the Clash of the Inland Northwest meet in Cheney, Wash. The Montana women’s team placed second overall.
Eastwood, 22, is a redshirt senior who competed for three years as Jonathan Eastwood in both cross-country and track. As a high school runner, Eastwood won the Class A Montana cross-country championship and swept the 800-meter, 1,600-meter, and 3,200-meter state titles in track and field, according to the Missoulian in Missoula, Mont. Eastwood took a break from competition last year to start hormone therapy. The NCAA, which governs the sport, requires male-to-female transgender athletes to take testosterone suppression pills for 12 months before competing, but it does impose a maximum testosterone level. Eastwood claims to have lost muscle mass, endurance, and speed as a result of hormone suppressants and clocked a slower time than normal last week.
“I am not in a position to know if June will gain an unfair advantage,” University of Montana athletic director Kent Haslem told The Daily Caller. “It is not my area of expertise and therefore we rely on the policies as set by the NCAA.”
But critics are pushing the NCAA to reevaluate its policies, especially considering science is finding hormone therapy does not level the playing field. A recent study found male-to-female transgender athletes who maintain suppressed testosterone levels still have a significant advantage over female athletes because hormone therapy does not eliminate the performance benefits of going through puberty as a man. —K.C.