Olympians concerned about impact of gender reform on women’s sport

Two former Olympians have raised concerns about the fairness of women’s sports categories amid proposals to reform the gender recognition process in Scotland.

Former swimmer Sharron Davis and former marathon runner Mara Yamauchi visited Edinburgh on Thursday to attend the For Women Scotland conference.

Both spoke of their disappointment that they were not invited as athletes to testify before the Holyrood Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Civil Justice, which is currently reviewing the legislation.

Last month, the committee gathered evidence of the proposal’s impact on sport after hearing from Sportscotland and Leap Sport Scotland.

Ms Davis said she would “definitely” appear before the committee if asked to do so, while Ms Yamauchi said she wrote to the committee after the sports testimony meeting.


Sharron Davis and Mara Yamauchi said they were disappointed that they were not invited to testify in Holyrood. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“I just got a reply that they are no longer going to have sports classes,” she said. “They need to listen to female athletes, and they need to listen to people who care about women’s sports.”

A letter sent to Ms. Davis from committee convener Joe FitzPatrick said the bill “has a number of aspects on which the committee should focus.”

“You understand that sports are just one of those aspects,” he wrote, adding that the broader issue of including transgender people in sports “goes well beyond the committee’s consideration of the specific provisions” of the bill.

“After considering this issue at a committee meeting last week, a collective decision was made not to hold a further meeting with the participation of elite athletes,” he said.

Ms. Davies told the conference attendees about her experience in the Olympic Games, where she met East German competitors.

Sports are exceptionalSharron Davis

“For me, it’s a passion fueled by a decade of competition with East Germans,” she said. “Young girls from East Germany were subjected to male puberty, which is a terrible thing.”

She added, “At the Olympics, I won a silver medal, being one of only two people outside the Eastern Bloc to win medals. They took 90% of the women’s medals and only 5% of the men’s.”

Ms Davies added: “If we allow men to play women’s sports, you will exclude women from their own category of sports.

“Sports are by nature exceptional. The whole reason you have kids under 10 is because kids under 10 can race and 12 year olds don’t race or win.”

Ms Yamauchi said she considered sports to be inclusive “until there was an ideology of gender identity,” adding: “If there were no categories, the only people to watch would be adult, healthy men, because they form a group. who has the greatest physical ability.”

She said: “We can all see with our own eyes what gender ideology has done to women’s sports and I hope political leaders put an end to this now because a lot of the damage has already been done.”

Ms Yamauchi said that during the competition she decided to self-exclude due to “unfair competition” after she suspected her competitors were doping.

“The same applies to women facing men in their category,” she said.

The controversial Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill will reduce the time it takes for a transgender person to live in their acquired gender from the current two years to three months, followed by a three-month reflection period.

The legislation will further eliminate the need to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria before applying for a gender recognition certificate and lower the minimum age of application from 18 to 16.