Rex Harvey was USATF official who sought to silence W45 sprint ace Cynthia Monteleone

Cynthia Monteleone, outspoken against transgender women competing in sports, went round with Rex Harvey (inset)Cynthia Monteleone, outspoken against transgender women competing in sports, went round with Rex Harvey (inset).

Cynthia Monteleone has some kind of guts. That’s no shock, since she runs 400 meters all out — including at world-class levels. Cynthia took bronze in the W40 400 at 2018 Malaga worlds (along with USA golds in the 4×100 and 4×400.) She was No. 4 on the 2021 global list in W45 (with 59.22) and No. 2 in 200 (at 26.08). But when you’re under a world media spotlight and still speak your mind, it takes a special kind of chutzpah.

Cynthia — a Hawaiian coach, author and mother of three — became a headline in a culture war debate when she told of how a USATF official at Malaga warned her: “For your own safety, you should probably keep your mouth shut” about a rival sprinter who was a transgender woman.

I’ve written sympathetically about a transgender politician (a Republican gun-rights defender), runner (Joanna Harper, a scientist with expert credentials on transgender studies) and racewalker (a trans man at the Olympic trials). I even spent a memorable hour with a trans woman at 2002 Orono masters nationals (she beat my wife in the 200 but took sixth in the W45 race.)

But what really gets up my nose (as the Brits say) is hearing someone being told to shut their trap. So I wrote USATF, including our national masters chair, Jerry Bookin-Weiner, for comment. I wrote to Malaga team manager Phil Greenwald. Crickets from all.

Not Cynthia. In response to a series of questions, the sprinter with Navajo, Apache and German DNA shared details of the Malaga incident — and revealed who warned her not to speak up.

“It was Rex Harvey who said that to me,” she said Sunday via email.

Rex, our beloved national masters chair, died in December 2019 in Prescott, Arizona, felled by a heart attack while battling appendix cancer.

Greenwald didn’t get off the hook, though.

“I would say I was not received warmly by Phil after complaining” about Colombia’s Yanelle Del Mar Zape. “I did also ask Phil and Sandy [Pashkin] about it at the meet and they said there was nothing that could be done. No complaint to be filed.”

Cynthia, who turns 46 late this month, said she doesn’t know if Rex was genuinely concerned that she might be attacked or not.

“He said it to me again on the phone a few months later, when he called to ask if I would please attend the Indoor World Championship to represent Team USA because he thought I could win medals. He was right of course.”

She says she spoke with Rex again at Poland worlds after Del Mar Zape beat Rachel Guest for silver in the 60 hurdles.

“Rex then spoke to Rachel and assured her he would ‘do something’ about the situation,” Cynthia says. “He then invited me to present at the annual meeting in Reno, Nevada, to tell my story. After hearing my story, the Executive Committee voted to establish a transgender issues task force to investigate the fairness of male-bodied athletes competing in the female category at masters championships.”

Colleen Barney was designated as head of the task force, and Cynthia sent research continuously to both her and Jerry.

Last month, she was told the task force had been disbanded in 2021.

“This was disappointing to say the least,” she said. “The IOC made it very clear that individual organizations should make their own policy. Did you know that male hearts get larger as we age while female hearts shrink? This is one of many specific considerations we should address when looking at fairness — especially in masters athletics.”

Extremely disappointed in USATF, Cynthia says she asked USATF Women’s Development Committee chair (and former masters 800 champion) Rose Monday at the Reno USATF convention if she could speak to the women’s committee.

Rose said no, Cynthia said, and added that Rose wanted her friend Doriane Coleman to speak on the issue as well but was told she was not permitted to have her speak.

“At this year’s meeting, I brought it up again in the women’s meeting in the Zoom chat,” Cynthia said. “Rose finally addressed the issue and allowed Nancy Hogshead-Makar, head of the women’s working policy group, to speak on the subject. Doriane is also a member of this policy group.”

Cynthia answered my specific questions: What did (Rex) insinuate about your safety? What specific fear did he have, or suggest that you should have?

Cynthia: He said I should keep quiet — that I should not speak up about this, especially in a foreign country.

When was the first time you spoke about transgender issues publicly? After your daughter encountered the problem?

I spoke up immediately at the meet and continuously after, never fearing for my safety. The meet officials were very upset. They stopped the meet as we marched to the starting line. They then told me they could not do anything about it at this late hour, to address it with Team USA management.

(I started addressing it with Rex and Sandy at outdoor national meet BEFORE Malaga.) One European official, who was at the race starting line in Malaga, came to me in Poland and said they were all disappointed that no one had addressed this yet and to keep speaking up.

Has anyone within USATF spoken to you privately about your comments? If so, who? And what did they say?

No. At the masters Town Hall this past fall, I spoke up in the Zoom chat about how I went to the Capitol and spoke with senators and members of Congress about both this and as well the politics of how USATF has handled the pandemic (recently including hosting a championship in a place that practices discrimination against unvaccinated athletes). Vince Lananna sent me a private message asking him to email the details. I have emailed SEVERAL times with no response.

What are your plans this season? Going to New York indoor nationals or Finland worlds? What’s your current condition?

I would love to go to indoor nationals, but I choose not to take the vaccine. I have a religious exemption. Are you aware of what happened to Sonja Friend-Uhl after hers? [Editor: She’s hinted of adverse health effects on social media.] We cannot pretend there are no side effects medically as well.

I formed a petition (and also here) that got about 150 signatures asking USATF to move or cancel the meet since not all paying members could attend. Jerry Bookin-Weiner simply said — at the Town Hall — no, we are not moving it. I sent the petition and several emails still asking both him and Lananna with no response.

My running condition? I am running faster than ever, setting a masters PR in my 200m last summer. I would love to represent Team USA in Finland. However, if I am forced to compete against a male-bodied athlete again, I will not do it. I will walk away.

If we don’t have fairness in sport, we don’t have sport. No medal is worth as much as standing up for the legends that came before me setting records and standing up for future generations of girls hopes and dreams – like my daughter.

Me again: Cynthia’s politics aren’t mine. (But neither were Rex’s — a hard-core Republican I admired and got along great with.) Yet I condemn any effort to shush her. USATF must let her speak.

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at or Story tips always welcome!

6 Comments on "Rex Harvey was USATF official who sought to silence W45 sprint ace Cynthia Monteleone"

  1. Well, Ken Stone (and others), it looks like masters T&F is getting more complex very quickly. We have COVID-19 testing issues, men competing as women, and requirements for wearing a mask. For the NYC indoor masters championship I note that “Masks must be worn at all times …. except when actually competing.” If I’m entered in the 60 dash and decide to sneak in some striders before my trial am I required to wear a mask? After all, I am not literally competing when I’m just warming up.

    As far as men competing as women, I note that one of my old heroes, 1976 Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, would now qualify for W70 under her new name of Caitlyn Marie Jenner. I did not, however, see Caitlyn’s name in the list of entrants for nationals, even though she would be a natural for the pentathlon.

    Even the reality of competing in our nation’s largest city will produce some challenges. I live in Fairfax, Virginia, and no doubt many people who live within 30 miles of me will be taking part in the big event. Making their choices for travel and lodging is something they should do right now, in my opinion, if they have not yet done so.

  2. Well, there hasn’t been much in the way of commentary on this story, and thus I will switch to our National Indoor Masters. Yes, regular entry closes late tomorrow (February 17), but if you want to come up with extra dollars you can still enter for a few more days (I didn’t bother to look up how many days, as I am going to bed in 12-14 minutes).

    The 400 dash is always a good source for those who like to predict the total turnout based on one event. At 10:00 PM tonight (Feb 16) we had 133 in the 400, indicating an excellent turnout for the championship. I’m looking at 1088 to 1094 for the final number of entrants, but who am I to say?

  3. I believe other athletes may be hesitant to respond based on backlash. I also am unvaxxed and completely support all of Cynthia’s common sense viewpoints. I had planned on nationals this summer and was in training shape to make a serious run at the M50 World Pent record but after seeing all the Covid protocol (requiring just a few days of a negative Covid test) I cancelled my hotel reservations and just donated my entry fees.

    Secondly, is there anyone that agrees with biological men competing against women? When did this become something we even had to debate? Did I read above where Rachel also had to compete against a biological male in the 60h? Insanity.

    I’ve continued to train some and may compete in some throws/jumps if Covid restrictions subside to “common sense” levels. It’s too hard to train as a multi when you don’t know about the future. I’ll just train enough to go compete in a couple events until things change. Politics have ruined the past couple years whether it be Covid policy or transgender issues. Common sense has been left at the door.

  4. Cynthia Monteleone won’t be in NYC for the big event next week, but we do have an excellent turnout. To save time I looked at the women’s 200 only. Yes, we have 80 women scheduled to compete in that event. What? That is absolutely huge.

    I did notice that for the first time in memory (and I believe for the first time in the history of our indoor nationals) we have a huge number of entrants from other countries. In just the women’s 200 we will have 1 or more contestants from Ecuador, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, China, Canada, Japan, Argentina, and Australia. Simply amazing.
    Can anyone explain the plethora of entrants from other countries?

  5. A lot of great things have been going on up in NYC (USATF Indoor Masters Champs), but I have no good place to write about them. Regardless, Kathy Martin has destroyed the 6:45 barrier in the W70 indoor mile, flying to a 6:31.25. The listed record, also set in NYC but 10 years ago, is 6:45.8 by Marie-Louise Michelson.

  6. Time marches on, but I still can’t find a place to write about our big meets, and thus I will steal this one. National outdoors will begin on July 28 in Lexington, Kentucky, and again the very young people (25-29) will be allowed to compete. If you are a thrower and want to enter the hammer, weight throw, and discus that will require a check (or other form of payment; I do not know) written in the amount of $95.00.

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