The director of campaign group Fair Play for Women has defended tennis champion Martina Navratilova, after she was dropped by a LGBT charity over comments she made about transgender athletes.
The 18-times Grand Slam winner said it was “cheating” for transgender women to compete in women’s sport as they had physical advantages, leading to charity Athlete Ally to sever ties with the tennis player.
However, Dr Nicola Williams argued it was “ludicrous” to call Ms Navratilova a “transphobe”.
She told talkRADIO’s Toby Young: “What she has essentially said is that male-bodied transgender athletes have a male advantage over women when they compete.
“For that reason, it would simply be unfair for male-born transgender people to compete in female sport but the rules allow them to do so.
“She is flagging this up so people understand what is happening and that we need these rules changed.”
'It is not discrimination'
Dr Williams added that she did have “sympathy” for transgender athletes but that they need to be given the “right category to race in”.
“We need to look at new categories and open up the male categories to allow competitors of any gender identity to compete fairly there,” she said.
“The important thing is that the female category must be retained for female athletes – members of the female sex – for valid reasons based on fairness alone.
“I do feel sympathy for transgender people because they are not being given the right category to race in.”
She added that it was not “discrimination” to exclude someone from a category.
“I support anyone to live in the gender identity they wish to. But sport is about a body – and the performance of those bodies – and it is about competing on a fair and level playing field,” she said.
“That means giving people meaningful competition and that is why we have categories so we can match different types of bodies together.
“It is not discrimination to exclude people from a category and in fact it is necessary to uphold fairness.”