One of Britain’s most celebrated athletes has said that trans runners would have an ‘unfair’ advantage in elite sporting competitions.
Long-distance runner Paula Radcliffe tweeted that allowing trans athletes to compete alongside cisgender women could undermine the stringent standards in the upcoming Boston Marathon.
She added that allowing trans runners to compete in the women’s category could ‘deprive a woman of a qualifying place’ in the elite running competition.
Radcliffe is Britain’s most celebrated long-distance female runner and still holds the women’s world record for the fastest women’s marathon.
Her comments come amid an increasingly polarising debate over trans athletes in elite sports.
‘They can deprive a woman of a qualifying place’
The Boston Marathon is one of the most revered and elite marathon courses in the world. It will take place on 15 April.
To participate, runners must first earn a ‘Boston bib’ by proving they can meet strict time restraints.
Posting on Twitter, Radcliffe said that the rules should be tightened so that trans athletes would not have a biological advantage.
‘The serious significance here is worse because Boston is notoriously difficult to qualify for,’ she wrote.
‘Opening women’s [qualifying times] up to any male who ‘self-identifies’ as female is unfair because the end result will be that female [Boston qualifying times] are made harder due to the added numbers achieving them.’
The serious significance here is worse because Boston is notoriously difficult to qualify for. Opening women’s QT’s up to any male who ‘self-identifies’ as female is unfair because the end result will be that female BQT’s are made harder due to the added numbers achieving them. https://t.co/P9BQS95qak
— Paula Radcliffe (@paulajradcliffe) April 7, 2019
One Twitter user responded to Radcliffe’s post by tweeting that ‘people should be able to identify how they chose’.
Radcliffe replied with: ‘They can identify however they want to. Just not in a sporting competition where they can deprive a woman of a qualifying place.
‘This is because qualifying times for women are slower than for men since biological men are capable of running faster than biological women.’
Far from the first
Radcliffe has warned, in recent months, of a potential ‘manipulation’ of the rules of top-level sports if rules for trans athletes were not tightened.
Trans rights activist and world cycling champion Dr Rachel McKinnon hit back at Radcliffe, accusing her of spreading transphobia.
Radcliffe’s sentiments are similar to a number of women athletes who have spoken out about trans athletes in recent months.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has also expressed concerns about trans athletes having an ‘unfair advantage’ in women’s sports.
Last month, swimmer Shannon Davies said that a number of female athletes felt there should be restrictions for trans athletes, but are afraid to speak out. BBC sports presenter and former rhythmic gymnast, Gabby Logan, also spoke out in support of Davies.
Navratilova, who is openly lesbian and a vocal gay rights supporter, initially said she would ‘educate’ herself on the topic after posting transphobic comments on Twitter in December last year.
However, the tennis star later doubled-down on her comments, calling it ‘unthinkable’ for trans athletes to compete in women’s competitions.
Navratilova received considerable backlash from trans rights supporters. The athletics group, Athlete Ally, later dropped her from their advisory board. The organization said that her comments ‘perpetuated dangerous myths’ about the trans community.
Increasingly bitter debate
The debate surrounding trans athletes representation in sports has become increasingly bitter in recent years, particularly on social media.
Critics of trans athletes have argued that some trans women have a biological advantage over cisgendered women.
However, medical tests have shown that this is not always the case, particularly in sports requiring speed and agility.
Experts have said that trans women who regularly take estrogen do not have an advantage. Trans rights advocates also point out how few trans world champions there are in elite sports.
In 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) began allowing athletes transitioning from male to female to participate without restriction.
However, IOC rules state that those transitioning must maintain their testosterone levels below a certain threshold for at least 12 months.