Paula Radcliffe is a very controversial woman right now. She’s controversial because apparently, she still believes the elite tiers of women’s sports should be reserved for those who were born as, well, women.
Radcliffe, a retired British long-distance runner with the world record for fastest marathon time by a female, made similar comments earlier in the month, according to The Daily Wire.
During an appearance on BBC Radio 5 on Friday, she refused to back away from those remarks, at least as far as elite sports go.
Radcliffe said there are “absolutely probably hundreds of transgenders who want to take part in sport, for all the other benefits that it brings.”
“And all we’re saying is, ‘That’s fine, but not elite sport, because elite sport, that female section of elite sport, has to be protected so that females can genuinely reach the top of it.’”
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“I’m a parent. I have a young daughter, and I want her to be able to compete in sports should she so choose, to the top level,” she said.
“And I think I’ve reached this stage in my life now as well where I’m thinking, ‘OK, I’ll stand up and I’ll say what I think, because if no one else is going to do it and then we get to a situation where we’re all criticizing,’ it’s a bit like … if you don’t do something in the beginning, you can’t really moan about it further down the line.”
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Radcliffe contrasted the situation transgender athletes face with those of intersex athletes, who are born with variations in sexual characteristics, be they anatomical and/or chromosomal.
As the retired runner noted, “they haven’t chosen to make that change, which is what is happening in transgender because they should be in male sport, and if they have chosen to transition, then they’re asking to compete in female sport, and I think that is a much more clear-cut and easier rule to rule on.”
Radcliffe’s remarks echoed the statements she made earlier in March to BBC Radio 4, when she said male-to-female transgender athletes have “certain advantages that women will not ever get.”
“First of all you have to explain that it’s part of a much bigger issue, and there are more elements around that, so there is a difference between transgender and (disorders of sex development),” she said, according to the U.K. Independent.
“There is also the different levels of transgender, so whether they’re fully transitioned, or whether they are taking hormone suppressants or not.”
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“You have to start looking at the advantages that athletes who transition, after they’ve gone through male puberty, have over other female athletes and what can be done to level that playing field, which is when they’re bringing in the hormones, so to suppress the levels of testosterone,” she added.
Radcliffe’s biggest critic — then as now — is cyclist Rachel McKinnon, who became the first transgender individual to win a world title in track cycling in the women’s division.
“Paula continues to ignore facts: trans women are legally female (and) trans women have been permitted to compete in Olympic-eligible sports since October 2003,” McKinnon told PinkNews.
“In the Olympic Games, since 2004, there have been over 52,000 Olympians and not a single trans person has ever qualified, let alone won a medal.”
“The very idea that we must ‘protect’ cis women’s — or ‘female’ — sport from trans women, who are legally female, too, is an irrational fear of trans women, which is the dictionary definition of transphobia,” McKinnon added.
McKinnon had called out Radcliffe in a controversial tweet after her earlier remarks. She also criticized Sharron Davies and Martina Navratilova, two other athletes who suggested they didn’t think transgender females should be competing in women’s sports.
“If Sharron Davies, Paula Radcliffe, or Martina Navratilova had said we need to keep black women out of sport to ‘protect it’ and the ‘integrity of women’s sport,’” McKinnon tweeted, “That would be obviously racist.”
“That’s why it’s obviously transphobic to exclude trans women now,” McKinnon said. “Not ‘name calling.’”
McKinnon’s point seems to be that Olympic rules regarding transgender athletes prove there’s no athletic advantage conferred by being born a male because no male-to-female transgender athletes have made the Olympic Games yet.
This hardly proves McKinnon’s argument, however, particularly given the increase in participation for transgender athletes in the overall sports world — as well as a marked increase in victories.
That’s why people are noting the problems inherent in transgender athletics now. As Radcliffe said: “If you don’t do something in the beginning, you can’t really moan about it further down the line.”
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