Transgender women in sport: Are they really a ‘threat’ to female sport?

Rachel McKinnon (centre) pictured with Jen Wagner-Assali (right), who called her victory amp;quot;unfairamp;quot;

Rachel McKinnon (centre) pictured with Jen Wagner-Assali (right), who called her victory “unfair”

Rachel McKinnon estimates she has received more than 100,000 hate messages on Twitter since she won her UCI Masters Track World Championship title in October.

The 36-year-old Canadian’s victory was controversial in some quarters because she is a transgender woman competing in female sport, albeit in the 35-44-year-old category.

Jen Wagner-Assali, who finished third, called it “unfair” and wants cycling’s international governing body to change its rules.

Others have said further examples may “threaten” the participation of women in sport – a view described as “sensationalist” by transgender racing driver Charlie Martin, and as “transphobic” by McKinnon.

It is a sensitive topic, which poses some difficult questions about how gender is seen in sport, and some “dangerous” ones – according to transgender handball player Hannah Mouncey – about the fundamental right of athletes to participate in sport.

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Rachel McKinnon says the majority of female cyclists have been supportive towards her, including Carolien van Herrikhuyzen

What’s the issue?

Despite the hate messages, which McKinnon says outweigh positive ones by 3,000-1, and despite the harassment she received as a road cyclist before she switched to the track and the “painful” training prior to winning the world title, she says it was “totally worth it”.

“When you win a cycling World Championship, you get to wear the rainbow jersey forever,” she says.

But there are those who say McKinnon should never have been on the podium in California in the first place.

Critics say it is unfair to have a trans woman competing in female sport with a biologically male body, though McKinnon says that view goes against point four of the International Olympic Committee charter, which says: “The practice of sport is a human right.”

The theory goes that because men can count on physiological advantages that on average make them bigger, faster and stronger, trans women will also benefit, making competition unfair.

Some also say male hormones such as testosterone being present in trans women’s bodies since birth give them a boost.

Nicola Williams, of Fair Play for Women – a group established to represent women’s voices “in the rush to reform transgender laws”, believes trans women should not participate in female-only sport until more evidence is gathered.

But McKinnon, an assistant professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and trans activist, believes much of the criticism is without foundation.

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How does the body change after transition?

Transgender women take the female hormone oestrogen and testosterone-blockers before having any surgery, and continue to take oestrogen after their transition.

McKinnon, who transitioned in her late-20s, says that results in “pretty radical physiological changes”, with muscle mass, strength and speed all reduced. It also, claims McKinnon, “compounds ageing”.

In essence, she maintains, it puts them on a similar level to women of the same size, and there are set limits to the amount of testosterone transgender athletes can have in their bodies before they compete. That is an issue currently being debated in women’s athletics.

But McKinnon claims the same research being used as the basis for the decision on permissible testosterone levels in athletes also suggests naturally occurring testosterone makes a minimal difference to performance compared to when it is taken through doping, for example.

And McKinnon, who was a road cyclist before she switched to the track in 2017, says her power output was “dead centre average for women”.

She also pointed out, after she won her world title in California, that Wagner-Assali had beaten her in 10 of 12 previous events.

What about the advantages of a bigger body?

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Hannah Mouncey (far right) with her Australian women’s handball team-mates

It is not hard to pick out Hannah Mouncey in a picture of the Australian women’s handball team. She is bigger and taller than the rest of the players.

Last year, Mouncey – the only transgender woman in the squad – was banned from being nominated for the women’s Australian Rules draft because of the disparity in size between her and her opponents.

In response, she said: “Think about the message it sends to women and girls about their bodies: if you’re too big, you can’t play. That is incredibly dangerous and backward.

“Being heavy is not necessarily an advantage in a game that has such an emphasis on endurance and speed.”

The 29-year-old has previously spoken about how female players “are quicker than me and have a better ability to recover because of my frame”.

McKinnon argues there is “no such thing as a level playing field” anyway.

“People can say that cis gender [people whose gender matches that of their birth sex] men are 8-12% stronger than cis gender women, and I’m willing to accept that figure for the sake of argument.

“But we have to recognise that the average difference between men and women is far smaller than between the weakest and strongest woman, or the shortest and tallest woman.

“We permit very tall women to compete against short women in sports that select for tallness like basketball, volleyball or rowing, and we consider that fair. So we permit very large competitive advantages through natural characteristics.

“It also depends on the sport. For sports like cycling, where if you’re going uphill you want to be as light as possible but as powerful as possible, someone with a larger skeleton is going to be carrying more weight, which is not helping them.”

In some sports, such as boxing, weightlifting and judo, separate weight categories also exist, meaning athletes are cast against competitors of a similar size.

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Hannah Mouncey (right) was banned from playing women’s Australian Rules football, but now plays for Australia’s handball team

How common are transgender women in female sport?

When BBC Woman’s Hour tackled the subject this month, they spoke to Williams, who said trans women posed a “threat” to female participation in sport, at a time when they are already under-represented.

It is difficult to measure numbers accurately, but government figures suggest there are 200,000 to 500,000 transgender people in the UK, equating to 0.3%-0.75% of the population.

And the numbers taking part in sport will be affected by, in the words of Pride Sports, “the significant barriers that still exist, such as hostility to trans people and lack of trans policies from national and international governing bodies”.

“It’s never going to be the case that trans women are going to take over women’s sport,” says Martin. “That’s a crazy and sensationalist argument to try and make an impact.”

McKinnon says: “There is no evidence that participation drops among cis women when a trans woman is present so we should never set our policy based on people who are fearful of trans people. That is the definition of transphobia.

“Participation tends to improve when you make a sporting place more inclusive.”

In a recent global survey of 1,000 women, 80% said trans women should have the same rights as them.

McKinnon says it is also worth considering that trans people have been able to compete in the Olympics since 2004.

“Not only is anyone yet to win a medal, but as far as we know, not a single trans person has gone to the Olympics,” she said.

“In terms of Olympic sports, there have only been two world champions and I’m one of them.”

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Rachel McKinnon got a special rainbow tattoo to mark her World Championship win

‘Celebrate our achievements – don’t revile us’

McKinnon says the scale of the reaction against her achievement took her by surprise.

“What people were saying wasn’t surprising but the scale of the reaction was shocking,” she says. “A lot of the negative reaction was from those who weren’t really interested in women’s sport but more a conduit for expressing their outrage at trans women.

“I received well over 100,000 hate messages on Twitter, physical hate mail at my job and hate via email too, so I had to change how I used social media in light of that harassment.

“I think my emotions afterwards were one of disappointment that we weren’t further along than I hoped.”

McKinnon says that, among the hundreds of supportive messages, the really meaningful ones are those from trans people, who have said her success has inspired them to get back into sport.

Both Martin and McKinnon say they were on the verge of quitting their sports after transition.

“Nobody should be denied the right to play sport,” says Martin. “Sport has so many health benefits and it unites people and gives them a sense of well-being and connection from playing in a team.

“Walking away from sport is common in the trans community, so to try and make divisions like this is sad.”

McKinnon adds: “People think this is a new topic, that there isn’t decades of data that we are drawing upon. It’s not. Trans people have been competing for decades, few of us make it to the highest level and even fewer of us ever win. So celebrate when we get there, don’t revile.

“I’m immensely proud of what I’ve accomplished and I’m not done yet. The Masters championships are in England and I want to defend my title.

“And I want to try and make the Olympics, that dream isn’t done. It’s a long shot, maybe impossible, but I want to get to a place where we celebrate monumental achievements that haven’t been done before.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/46453958

Simon Yates: Briton wants to ‘finish the job off’ at the 2019 Giro d’Italia

Simon Yates

Simon Yates won his first Grand Tour at September’s Vuelta a Espana

Britain’s Simon Yates says he wants to “finish the job off” when he returns to the Giro d’Italia in 2019.

The 26-year-old led the race for 13 days in May but lost the leader’s jersey to eventual winner Chris Froome on stage 19 of the 21-stage race.

Yates, who rides for Mitchelton-Scott, went on to win his first Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana in September.

“It’s a race I have great memories from but one which also left a bitter taste in my mouth,” Yates said of the Giro.

“I want to go back to try to finish the job off.”

Yates claimed three stage victories in the 2018 edition and came within two days of winning the title.

However, he lost almost 39 minutes when Froome attacked on the Colle delle Finestre, falling from first to 17th in the general classification, and eventually finished 22nd.

“The Giro is always an extremely difficult race and next year, with three time trials, it’s maybe not perfectly suited to me,” said Yates, who is a climbing specialist.

“We will still give it a real go and see what we can achieve.”

Mitchelton-Scott sports director Matt White said he had “a gut feeling” that Yates would return to the Giro.

“He will return with the self-assurance that he’s been there and he and the team know they can win a Grand Tour,” White added.

“Regardless of who is on the start line, Simon will go in as one of the favourites and we’re comfortable with that.”

The 102nd edition of the Giro d’Italia begins on 11 May with an 8km time trial in Bologna that ends with a 2km climb to the finish line.

British riders won all three Grand Tours in 2018, with BBC Sports Personality of the Year Geraint Thomas, claiming the Tour de France title.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/46590867

Sports Personality of the Year winner: Geraint Thomas triumphs after Tour de France success

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Watch: Cyclist Thomas wins Sports Personality of the Year 2018

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas has been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2018.

The Team Sky rider, 32, became only the third Briton to win the race, after Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.

“I take great pride in representing Britain and Wales,” he said on Sunday. “It has been a great year for British sport and long may it continue.”

In a public vote, Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton finished second while footballer Harry Kane was third.

Thomas – who was presented with his award by 2017 winner Sir Mo Farah – is the first Welshman to win Sports Personality since footballer Ryan Giggs in 2009.

“I really should have thought about what I was going to say,” a shocked Thomas said.

“I feel very lucky to have come into cycling when I did. I just went down to the local leisure centre for a swim and instead I rode my bike.

“As a bike rider, I always focus on myself. Obviously people want me to win, but hearing stories like Tyson [Fury]’s and Billy [Monger]’s, you realise that what we do does inspire people back home.

“To see people on their bikes and enjoying it, you take just as much pride from that as winning something like this.”

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Thomas received a hero’s welcome at his homecoming parade in Cardiff in August

The award comes after Thomas was named BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2018 earlier this month.

His victories in the public votes are recognition for his success on two wheels. Between 2007 and 2012, he won two Olympic and three world team pursuit titles on the track.

His Tour de France victory came in his ninth appearance – one fewer than the record for most appearances before winning.

He won two stages of the Tour, including stage 12, which included the famous Alpe d’Huez climb, and wore the Yellow Jersey for the final 11 stages.

Thomas was the first Welshman to win the Tour and it was the sixth time in seven years a Brit had won.

In 2018, Hamilton won his fifth F1 World Championship title, while World Cup Golden Boot winner Kane captained England to the semi-finals in Russia.

“I’m really proud to be in the top three and hopefully in the years to come I can try and win it,” Tottenham striker Kane told BBC Sport.

“When you’re in a team sport, you have to bring the nation together and as an England team we did that, which was amazing.”

Sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, England cricketer Jimmy Anderson and skeleton’s Lizzy Yarnold were also shortlisted for the main award.

Reaction to Thomas’ win

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Other award winners at Sports Personality 2018

A memorable night in Birmingham

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Watch: Baddiel Skinner reform to perform Three Lions

Pop star Paloma Faith opened the show at the Genting Arena with a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s Respect before hosts Gabby Logan, Clare Balding and Gary Lineker welcomed the six contenders onto the stage to the sound of This Is Me from the Greatest Showman.

Special guests in the sell-out crowd included some of the divers who rescued the Wild Boars football team from a flooded cave in Thailand, as well as Vera Cohen, 102, and her sister Olga Halon, 97, who were Manchester City mascots in September.

There were lumps in throats when teenage racing driver Billy Monger received the Helen Rollason Award and was joined on stage by the doctors and race marshals who saved his life following a Formula 4 crash at Donington Park in 2017.

The crowd also reminisced about a remarkable summer when Baddiel and Skinner reunited with The Lightning Seeds to perform Three Lions, which broke chart records during England’s World Cup semi-final run.

And there were other lighter moments, including a topless Mark Williams filmed in a caravan, football legend David Ginola talking golf, and George Ezra dressing as Gareth Southgate to close the show with a performance of Paradise.

The previous five SPOTY winners

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/sports-personality/46566121

GB claim Madison silver at Track Cycling World Cup in London

Fred Wright and Matthew Walls won silver behind Madison champions Denmark

Fred Wright and Matthew Walls won silver behind Madison champions Denmark

Great Britain claimed a silver medal in the men’s Madison on the second day of the Track Cycling World Cup in London.

Matthew Walls, 20, and Fred Wright, 19, followed up Friday’s team pursuit bronze medals by sealing second place, 16 points behind champions Denmark.

The inexperienced British duo scored in seven of the 12 sprints and finished strongly to hold off Spain.

“It was a really hard race and the standard of the field was mad – there were so many good riders,” Walls said.

“We got quite a few points at the end, so we’re really happy to come away with silver.”

There was disappointment in the men’s keirin where Jack Carlin was edged out of the medals into fourth position, and the women’s omnium in which Elinor Barker finished fifth.

Katy Archibald reached the quarter-finals of the women’s sprint where she was beaten by the eventual winner Stephanie Morton of Australia.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/46580624

Great Britain’s women win team pursuit gold at World Cup

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Kenny, Archibald, Evans and Dickinson win gold in women’s team pursuit

Great Britain’s women won gold in the team pursuit at the World Track Cycling World Cup in London.

Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald, Neah Evans and Ellie Dickinson beat world champions United States at Lee Valley VeloPark.

The quartet lapped the American team in an impressive display on Friday.

In the men’s team pursuit, the independent British track team Huub Wattbike took gold in a time of three minutes 57.726.

John Archibald, Daniel Bingham, Ashton Lambie and Jonathan Wale made up the quartet to beat Belgium.

Will Tidball, Ethan Vernon, Matt Walls and Fred Wright won bronze for the Great Britain team by three hundredths of a second from Italy.

The Italians had better luck in the women’s team pursuit, beating Britain’s Team Breeze – made up of academy riders Jenny Holl, Josie Knight, Rebecca Raybould and Jessica Roberts – to bronze.

After catching the American women with more than one kilometre still to go in the team pursuit, Archibald said the way they started the race was “a really good formula”.

“The most important part of a team pursuit is inevitably that last kilometre and we’re yet to really test that, but although the world championships seem a long way away, I’m excited to see what we can do there,” she added.

In the men’s sprint, Joe Truman, Ryan Owens and Phil Hindes took silver for Great Britain after being beaten by the Netherlands in the final.

The fourth event in the six-stage World Cup series offers riders the chance to earn qualifying points for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

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Will Tidball, Ethan Vernon, Matt Walls and Fred Wright win team pursuit bronze

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/46574972

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