Tennis star Martina Navratilova has apologised to the LGBTQ community for suggesting transgender women in sport are “cheats”, claiming she never intended to offend anyone.
Last month the legendary athlete came under fire for her controversial views on transgender women in sport in which she claimed in an opinion piece for The Times that “if you have a penis, you shouldn’t compete as a woman”.
This followed an earlier argument from a few months ago where she addressed transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon’s success in a world championship event, and said that it’s “not fair” for a transgender woman to be placed in the same category as those who were born female.
Now in a blog post on her own website, Navratilova has said sorry to any who was offended by her words, claiming she well and truly “stumbled into a hornets’ nest” following the article.
“The support I normally get from ‘my people’, the LGBT community, was replaced by a barrage of quite nasty personal attacks and I was dropped (jettisoned is a better word) as an ambassador for Athlete Ally,” she began.
“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.”
The 62-year-old went on to say that there is no blanket rule that will solve all issues relating to transgender women in sport and they need to figure out a way to make everyone happy.
“The objective must be to find policies that make women’s sport as inclusive and fair as practically possible,” she continued. “After all, if everyone were included, women’s sport as we know them would cease to exist.
“When I talk about sports and rules that must be fair, I am not trying to exclude trans people from living a full and healthy life. All I am trying to do us to make sure girls and women who were born female are competing on as level a playing field as possible within their sport.”
The star received a lot of criticism for her last article in The Times with many labelling her “transphobic” for singling out McKinnon. She had claimed although McKinnon’s testosterone levels were well within the normal range to compete in the woman’s division, her build could cause some problems for competitors.
Navratilova said at the time reducing hormone levels “does not solve the problem” and other factors such as muscle and bone density pose a clear advantage.
“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 if he so desires,” she claimed. “It’s insane and it’s cheating.
“Indeed, if a male were to change gender in such a way as to eliminate any accumulated advantage, he would have to begin hormone treatment before puberty. For me, that is unthinkable.”