Martina Navratilova has apologised for using the word ‘cheating’ when referring to athletes who wished to cynically change gender to compete and excel in women’s sports. The former World No. 1 copped abuse online and was labelled “transphobic” after she engaged in a twitter debate and later wrote an opinion piece for The Sunday Times.
She was also dropped as an ambassador for Athlete Ally. “I know that my use of the word ‘cheat’ caused particular offence among the transgender community. I’m sorry for that because I certainly was not suggesting that transgender athletes in general are cheats."
"I attached the label to a notional case in which someone cynically changes gender, perhaps temporarily, to gain a competitive advantage. We should not be blind to the possibility and some of these rules are making that possible and legal."
"The context may be different, but the case of Lance Armstrong, and the harm he did to his sport, is surely instructive,” Navratilova wrote on her blog. The 18 time Grand Slam champion may have apologised for the offence caused by using the word “cheating” but she has stood by her concerns about transgender athletes in competitive sport.
“First, we all need to realize that there is no perfect solution in which nobody will ever be wronged or disadvantaged. There is no blanket rule that will solve all issues. The objective must be to find policies that make women’s sport as inclusive and fair as practically possible."
"After all, if everyone were included, women’s sports as we know them would cease to exist. Therefore, any sensible policy must have some exclusions. But which ones? Where do you start and where do you end? I know I don’t have all the answers."
"I don’t think there is a definitive answer here. That is why I want a debate, a conversation that includes everyone and is based, as I have said, not on feeling or emotion but science, objectivity and the best interests of women’s sport as a whole”.
Navratilova has been a long-standing campaigner for gay rights. She suffered abuse when she came out as gay in the 1980s. “Fairness has been my mantra all my life. And that will not change, no matter the name calling”.