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News > United Kingdom

UK Swimming Legend: Transgender Athletes 'Should Not Compete'

  • UK Swimming Legend: Transgender Athletes 'Should Not Compete.'

    UK Swimming Legend: Transgender Athletes 'Should Not Compete.' | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 March 2019

Two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sharon Davies this week argued transgender athletes shouldn't compete in female competitions in order to "protect women's sport."

U.K. swimming legend Sharon Davies has added to the controversial statements made by tennis great Martina Navratilova by claiming transgender athletes shouldn't compete in female competitions as it gives them a distinct advantage, reports the BBC. 

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Earlier this week, 18-time tennis Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova said it was "cheating" to allow transgender women to compete in women's sport because they had unfair physical advantages.

One campaign group said Navratilova's comments were "transphobic," while transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon said Davies was a "transphobe" and was "sharing hate speech."

Speaking to BBC Sport, Davies, 56, a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist, said she had spoken to many other female athletes who "feel the same way."

"It is not a transphobic thing - I really want to say we have no issue with people who are transgender," she said.

"Every single woman athlete I've spoken to, and I have spoken to many, all of my friends in international sports, understand and feel the same way as me," sharing the earlier sentiments of Navratilova who has since apologized for using the word "cheating" when she referred to the alleged advantages of the transgender athletes.

In a blog published early Sunday, Navratilova, a long-standing campaigner for gay rights, said she has been vilified for her earlier comments, and subsequently had her ties with U.S.-based organization Athlete Ally, cut.

"I have always and will always be a champion of democracy, equal rights, human rights and full protection under the law for everyone. When I talk about sports and rules that must be fair, I am not trying to exclude trans people from living a full, healthy life," she wrote.

"I am certainly not advocating violence against trans people, as has been suggested. All I am trying to do is to make sure girls and women who were born female are competing on as level a playing field as possible within their sport."

Meanwhile, swimming icon Davies ​​​​says it's important for sports' governing bodies to debate the issue; "We need to come up with something that works for everybody and everybody agrees with, rather than having all sorts of diverse rules," she argued.

"We need to come up with a unified set of rules that is clear, concise and fair."

Davies' comments came a day after she posted her opinion on Twitter. The 1980 Olympic silver medallist said: "I believe there is a fundamental difference between the binary sex you are born with and the gender you may identify as.

"To protect women's sport, those with a male sex advantage should not be able to compete in women's sport."

Under guidelines introduced in 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allows athletes transitioning from female to male to participate without restrictions, reports BBC.

Male to female competitors, however, are required to have kept their levels of testosterone - a hormone that increases muscle mass - below a certain level for at least 12 months.

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