The Canadian Cycling Association is waiting to hear from downhill racer Danika Schroeter by Friday on whether she will appeal a suspension for mocking Canadian women's champion Michelle Dumaresq, a transsexual.
The suspended licence could cost Schroeter a chance to compete at the world championships in New Zealand, Aug. 26 and 27.
On July 23, Dumaresq (born Michael) hurtled to her third national title on the downhill course at Whistler, B.C., beating Schroeter by a single second. As the top three finishers mounted the podium, Schroeter was handed a T-shirt with the handwritten message, "100 Per Cent Pure Woman -- Champ 2006." She wore the shirt during the ceremony, while catcalls from the crowd were directed at Dumaresq.
Dumaresq has been a target of controversy since being officially accepted by the national federation as a woman in 2002. Some women racers feel she carries an unfair physical advantage because she was born a man.
"The suspension to Danika has nothing to do with the underlying issues or the message she was trying to put across but the manner in which she conveyed it," said Kris Westwood, director of high performance for the CCA.
"It's not an issue, per se, of her opinion or her right to express it, but that it was done in a denigrating manner in a podium ceremony that led to this."
Athletes in the medals ceremony are still considered to be within the competition and still governed by rules and protocols. Schroeter ran afoul of regulations governing proper dress and conduct that say: "Licence holders . . . shall refrain from any acts of violence, threats or insults or any other improper behaviour or from putting other persons in danger. They may not in word, gesture, writing or otherwise harm the reputation or question the honour of other licence holders, officials, sponsors, federations, the UCI or cycling in general. The right of criticism shall be exercised in a motivated and reasonable manner and with moderation."
Neither Schroeter, of Maple Ridge, B.C., nor Dumaresq, of Vancouver, responded to e-mail requests for interviews.
Dumaresq, 36, began hormone treatments in her early 20s to prepare for a gender change. She underwent surgery seven years ago. Her birth certificate has been revised to identify her as a woman. There is no technical barrier against Dumaresq competing in any event for which she is qualified. The International Olympic Committee did away with gender testing in 2004 and international and domestic sporting bodies have followed the IOC policy to permit transsexual athletes to compete.
Dumaresq has already represented Canada twice at world championships and been the subject of a documentary film entitled 100 Per Cent Woman, the phrase alluded to on the mocking T-shirt.
Dumaresq told Canadian Press she believes a suspension is in order.
"I think it was the right move. I thought that was a display of very unsportsmanlike behaviour. . . . I felt someone like that, who is willing to make a stunt [like that] on a national stage should not represent the country."
The day after the episode, a posting appeared on the Canadian Cyclist website forum in which Schroeter's friend John Starcevic claimed responsibility for the shirt incident: "I'd like to apologize to Michelle and Danika for my actions. I am sorry for the embarrassment and the hurt I caused to both of these women."
Schroeter followed up with a personal apology, Dumaresq said.
"I thanked her for her apology. I said I thought it was in very poor taste and she did a lot of damage to our sport and I lost a lot of respect for her. Then I walked away."
As for the issue of retaining a man's power despite the surgery, there are physical and mental sides to the story. The former Michael Dumaresq was purportedly taller than Michelle and stood a solid 210 pounds. As Michelle, the biker's posted size is 175 pounds and 5 foot 9. Surgery and hormone therapy have significantly reduced her muscle mass and curtailed testosterone production.
Though she is still big for a woman, she said the effect of the change is like having a big truck powered only by a small car engine, and she needs to train harder than others to make smaller muscles move a big skeleton.
On the mental side, however, critics say Dumaresq's surgery couldn't cut out 25 years of being a boy and a man and being taught a male's attitude toward risk-taking, danger and being aggressive in sport -- the very qualities required to be an intrepid downhiller.