Olympian under fire for transgender 'joke'

The sprinter said we lived in "ridiculous times"

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Olympic sprinter James Ellington has defended comments he made on Twitter about the participation of transgender people in sport, after an online backlash.

The 34-year-old athlete attracted criticism when he joked on social media: “If I decide from now on I want to be recognised as a woman and break all the WOMENS british sprint records, is that fair. Living in ridiculous times.”

He has since argued that he was "speaking up for women in sport".

Under current guidelines of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), athletes who transition from male to female can compete in the women’s sport if their testosterone level is below a certain amount.

Those transitioning from female to male can compete without restriction.

The IOC is currently assessing its guidelines ahead of for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Reacting to Mr Ellington’s tweet, former Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, who worked on passing same-sex marriage legislation, calling it a “ridiculous statement”.

Another Twitter user, author and member of a transgender family, Amanda Jette Knox, spoke of the “discrimination, mockery, media attacks" and "loss of relationships” that people face when they change their gender.

Others praised the two-time European gold medallist for “speaking up for women”.

Olympic swimmer Sharon Davies said that when she competed in the 70s and 80s “a whole generation of young girls in sport lost out to testosterone-filled East Germans”.

She said that those who addressed the matter were branded "bad losers”.

Ms Davies has previously called for trans division in elite sport to “level the playing field”.

Mr Ellington is aiming for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo after recovering from a near career-ending motorbike crash two years ago.

He suffered a broken ankle, broken leg, displaced pelvis and fractured eye socket.

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