Martina Navratilova blasts ‘cheating’ transgender women in sport by Andrew Gilligan The Sunday Times 17.02.19

The original article is here.

Martina Navratilova, the nine-times Wimbledon singles champion, has attacked the “insane” practice of allowing male-born transgender athletes to compete against biological women.

Writing for The Sunday Times, Navratilova describes it as “cheating”, saying that hundreds of trans athletes have “achieved honours as women that were beyond their capabilities as men”.

She adds: “It is surely unfair on women who have to compete against people who, biologically, are still men. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her.”

Navratilova, who became a target for abuse after coming out as gay in 1981, said she deplored the “tyranny” of transgender activists who “denounce anyone who argues against them”. She writes: “I worry that others may be cowed into silence or submission.”

Her intervention will electrify the debate on trans people in sport. The International Olympic Committee, the Rugby Football Union and British Cycling are among sports organisations reviewing their policies amid concern that men who transition to women have an unfair advantage.

Trans activists say that reducing hormone levels can eliminate or minimise any advantage, but Navratilova argues that this does not solve the problem because “a man builds up muscle and bone density . . . from childhood”.

The tennis star was recently caught in a social media spat with Rachel McKinnon, the first transgender woman to win a female cycling world title, tweeting: “You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women.”

McKinnon, then 35, who was a man until the age of 29, towered over rivals. The bronze medallist, Jen Wagner-Assali, said the contest was “not fair”.

McKinnon demanded an apology, saying Navratilova was “transphobic” and that her years of campaigning for LGBT equality “doesn’t change the fact that you did something very wrong today. Past good deeds don’t give someone a pass.”

Navratilova writes today: “Since I have spent much of my life fighting injustice, on my own behalf and for others, I was pretty put out, especially when the bullying tweets from McKinnon continued, like incoming fire.

“Ever the peacemaker, I promised to keep quiet on the subject until I had researched it. Well, I’ve now done that, and if anything my views have strengthened. To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies. It’s insane and it’s cheating.”

Navratilova makes a “critical distinction” between athletes such as McKinnon, who retains her male anatomy, and the tennis player Renée Richards, born Richard Raskind, who had irreversible gender-change surgery. She said she also supported Caster Semenya, the intersex Olympic 800m champion born and raised as a woman, who tomorrow begins legal action against new International Association of Athletics Federations rules that she says are discriminatory.

Next year’s Tokyo Olympics are likely to have the Games’ first trans competitors, including Brazilian volleyball player Tifanny Abreu, under rules that say a trans athlete need no longer have surgery to qualify as female but must instead demonstrate lowered testosterone levels.

Nicola Williams, of the group Fair Play for Women, said the limit was based on questionable data. Calling for an independent review based on “science, not ideology”, she said: “We are approaching a decision point because there will soon be more Rachel McKinnons, but without fair competition sport becomes meaningless. If girls and women can never win, they will leave sport in droves.”

Charlie Martin, a transgender racing driver, told the BBC: “It’s never going to be the case that trans women are going to take over women’s sport.”