The ultimate sacrifice of self

— -- Editor's Note: The following item deals with a sensitive subject that some readers might find objectionable. In other words, kids, screen this before you show it to your parents. The subject has to do with the most difficult subject of all -- a method of competition that does not encourage, inspire, or reward cheaters. Yes, yes, I know. No cheating?!! The item to which we refer is the International Olympic Committee's decision to pursue an avenue by which transsexuals could compete in the Games. Now that's not the scandalous part. Inclusion is always better than exclusion, and even if you do find transsexuals competing in sports to be offensive, well, the remote is right there underneath your right cheek. Go watch that Clay Aiken-Ruben Studdard match on the next WWE pay-per-view. The scandalous part is in wondering how an athlete might want to use this new development to improve his or her chances to win an Olympic medal. And frankly, we can't think of one. I mean, we know that athletes would endanger their health for a medal because they do it all the time. We know they would shorten their lives because they take steroids. We also know they would jeopardize their sex lives for the same reason. But would they actually jeopardize their gender? Sorry, but I don't think the pole vault, the pommel horse or the welterweight championship is that important. And I bet nobody else thinks that, either. For one, transgendered people don't make this decision lightly; normally, the decision comes only after years of barely endurable psychological agony. In short, it isn't an outpatient deal, let alone one where a fellow competitor says after a workout, "Hey, I should hook you up with my surgeon." Thus, it seems quite unthinkable to imagine an athlete who would choose this as the shortcut to make up for the steroids, hormones or eye-pecking hawk extract that they are now taking to shave that extra second or so off their 400-meter times. And that, kids, is why we're all for this. We have come these past few months to distrust everything that links athletes and the training methods that swell them up like poisonous Brazilian toads. Any athlete who gains more than five pounds, an eighth of a hat size, or develops acne where acne does not normally sprout is open to suspicion, with or without the positive drug test to back those suspicions. We trust nobody, nobody's agent, nobody's trainer, nobody's general manager, and in several cases we can think of, nobody's spouse. These days, a denial is exactly the same as an admission, and a person is guilty until proven retired, or irrelevant. On the subject of performance-enhancing powders, juices, tablets, salves and tinfoil hats, we're making up our own minds here without waiting for any messy verifications. Ahh, but transsexuals ... well, unless we have badly misjudged this subsection of human nature, we can pretty well assume that there is no reason, record or race so compelling that someone would have to change clothing stores to achieve them. In other words, if you hear or read of an Olympic transsexual, you can be fairly sure that the person in question hasn't undergone the procedure to run faster, throw farther, jump higher or bowl straighter. And that works for us. It may not be medicine that works for you, and you can take that up with the supreme being of your choice at a mutually convenient time -- as opposed to, say, sending an e-mail to us -- but it's not cheating for a better contract, a faster time, or a commercial endorsement. Frankly, we could use the honesty. And if, by chance, we're wrong about this, too, and that someone actually does this with an eye toward competitive advantage -- well, if that happens, sign us off the Olympics for good. We'll take figure skaters hiring thugs to kneecap other figure skaters any time, but this, to quote Billy Don Shatner, is the last frontier, one the rest of you will have to explore on your own. Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to