Former British swimmer Sharron Davies MBE has sparked criticism after saying she believes that transgender athletes competing in female competitions have an unfair advantage.
The athlete, who won silver in the 1980 Moscow Olympics and two gold medals in the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games, tweeted that there was a “fundamental difference between the binary sex you are born with & the gender you may identify as.”
Davies added that “to protect women’s sport, those with a male sex advantage should not be able to compete in women’s sport.”
Davies comments, made on the swimmers Twitter account, have been retweeted over 3,800 times with many people showing both support and criticism for the tweet.
Other athletes and Olympians, including Dame Kelly Holmes, shared their supports for Davies comments. Holmes tweeted that it was “not about how people live their lives, who they are or who people chose to be; that should never be questioned” and added that “fair and safe markers in sport is a must.”
Paris Lees called out Davies, saying that there is no “argument for excluding trans women from anything”
Trans columnist Paris Lees responded to Davies by saying: “Women are oppressed on the basis of biology. That is not an argument for excluding trans women from anything.
“Tell me, do you think when I’m walking down the street alone I’m safer because I don’t have ovaries? Do you think it makes me less likely to be attacked? Are you serious?”
Lees also tweeted her support for the trans community. “To all the young trans people seeing adults calling them cheats, fake, perverts, confused, ugly and inferior – you’re not. I grew up hearing that too.”
Sharron Davies says her comments are backed up by other female athletes: “We need to come up with something that works for everybody”
Speaking to BBC Sport after her comments on Twitter, Davies said she her opinion was shared with many other female athletes.
“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,” she said. “It is not a transphobic thing – I really want to say we have no issue with people who are transgender.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of people who are in the races [now] are in a very difficult predicament when they can’t speak out. It maybe falls to the people who were competing [in the past] who would understand the predicament that is being faced at the moment to try to create a debate, and try to explain how we feel there needs to be a fair and level playing field.
“We need to come up with something that works for everybody and everybody agrees with, rather than having all sorts of diverse rules.”
Davies later tweeted that it was “important not to get abusive to any group of individuals. We all have a right to our opinions & respect from others but females athletes also have a right to a level playing field.”
Her comments came only days after tennis player Martina Navratilova claimed that it was “insane” to allow trans women to compete in sport.
International sporting bodies allow trans women to compete if their hormones are kept within natural levels for women, a decision which Navratilova said “can’t be right. You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women.”
A Stonewall spokesperson told PinkNews: “Sport should be welcoming to everyone, including trans people. We need clubs and governing bodies, as the experts, to consider how their sports’ individual policies can work to be as inclusive as possible, and what advice and guidance they’re giving to ensure all people, including trans people, can take part in sport.”