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Sport and principles

Sport – either as a recreation or as simply a joyful celebration of what human beings can potentially achieve given the required combination of genetic gifts, hard work, beneficial nutrition, ambition, drive and no doubt random injects of good fortune – inevitable attracts some troubling complications.

On this organ from time to time we highlight those that concern us most, e.g. performance-enhancing drugs, cheating, maladministration, the ability of power and money to corrupt sport absolutely as they do every other walk of life and – perhaps the most important of all –the sanctity of the principle that what the sports-loving onlooker (whether fan, supporter or disinterested onlooker) is watching is ‘real’ and fair, i.e. a genuine level-playing-field contest between competitors who are striving for perfection and victory both in accordance with the rules and steeped in the virtues of integrity, honesty and fairness.

Lest I leave anything out, let me here also make reference to clubs or teams who breach their sports’ salary caps, financial fair play regulations or are guilty of ‘tapping up’ players over potential transfers; players who ‘do not give of their best’ in furtherance of betting scams, whether devised by themselves or by third parties who perhaps have enlisted their connivance by payment or similar inducements; and lastly, anything which might come under the umbrella of ‘conning’ the paying public – whether it arranged by sporting bodies, self-interested team/club cabals, doctors, agents, back-up staff, governments or gangsters.

Issues around transgenderism (is that a word?) has come greatly to the fore in recent times, not least twice in the past week.

Firstly, in the UK there was a case that received considerable media coverage of a female who self-identified enough as a male to go some way down the road of medical gender-realignment, got herself officially reclassified as a male and then who subsequently became pregnant and had a baby.

Inevitably in this wonderfully PC modern world this has brought to prominence the question of how somebody who is now officially recognised by law – having previously been assessed and identified as such by whatever authorities deal with such things – as a male can then get pregnant. This is in a world in which not only medical science but sheer bloody common sense decrees than men can neither get pregnant nor give birth.

Further – and I’m sorry for asking the obvious – when it comes to the law and official paperwork, how can someone who is legally a man also be a mother?

Does he/she qualify for maternity or (alternatively) paternity leave and/or benefits – assuming, that is, they work at all?

And what about the argument that – never mind what our diversity-rich modern society decrees as a result of its committee-work, social care involvement or indeed hang-wringing dithering – anyone who manages to give birth to a baby must by definition be female?

Or are we now to accept – both in theory and practice – that one person can be both male and female simultaneously … and, for the first time in recorded history, without actually being a hermaphrodite?

Secondly, legendary female tennis great Maritina Navratilova came out swinging (in the pugilistic sense, not the sexual one) with some comments on the unfairness of ‘trans’ women – i.e. people who had been born male and later self-identified as female and had transitioned to a point somewhere along the spectrum between being, to be crass about it, an unadulterated man who simply likes wearing dresses … and a completely medically gender-realigned female to all intents and purposes – being allowed to play elite female sports.

She did this against the background that a hoo-hah has developed recently between those world athletics bodies who – after assessing major studies on the phenomenon – believe that competitors who by chance or vagary of birth have male-levels of testosterone in their bodies should be made to take testosterone-depressing medication in order to render competition against ‘truly female’ athletes fair … and those world athletic bodies who don’t.

See here for a piece by Frances Perraudin on Navratilova’s comments (written in an article for The Sunday Times) as appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

I’m behind Navratilova on this one, simply on the basis that – as a sports fan and prospective watcher of athletics (not that I do it that often because of my revulsion at its chronic performance-enhancing drugs problem) – as stated above, the fundamental principle of fairness and transparency before the spectator should be paramount.

If either men wearing dresses (but calling themselves female) or those who have ‘transitioned’ to being medically and legally female (but who are still producing male levels of testosterone naturally) are permitted to compete against those who might be here described as ‘real women’ it will – and arguably through athletics history already has done – make a mockery of fairness and a level-playing field.

The ‘real women’ know it and – whilst the ‘trans women may or may not acknowledge it, or indeed don’t care – they know it too. Depending upon the extra degree of testosterone in their bodies, the ‘trans’ women could have anything up to a 20% advantage.

In this context, who’d want (or bother) to watch female events in which ‘trans’ and real women compete together?

The ‘trans’ women should compete in a separate gender category amongst themselves – I want to watch ‘real women’ competing fairly against each other, thank you very much.


About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts