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23 Dec, 2021 14:53

Transgender controversy poses threat to sports – Putin

Transgender controversy poses threat to sports – Putin

Russian president Vladimir Putin has likened the emergence of transgender athletes to Covid and warned that women's sport is under threat from males who transition and take part in female competition.

The row over transgender athletes has been one of the key controversies in sport in 2021, including at the Tokyo Olympics, where weightlifter Laurel Hubbard – who went through puberty as a man – competed in the women's light heavyweight category.

Dozens of bills have been put forward in the US aimed at outlawing transgender athletes from competing against school and college athletes who were born as women.

Most recently, transgender swimmer Lia Thomas broke records in female races  at the University of Pennsylvania, leading to allegations that she had boasted about how easy her achievement was and reports that parents have pleaded to leaders for a change in the rules.

"It’s like the coronavirus pandemic," said Putin, speaking at his annual news conference in Moscow.

"New strains appear, we can’t escape it. It’s necessary to find effective counter-measures.

"If someone thinks men and women are one and the same, that’s up to them – but there is common sense."

Putin then appeared to refer to a reported incident in the US in early 2020, when an inmate at Illinois’ largest women’s prison claimed she had been raped by a transgender inmate who was transferred to the facility the previous year.

"I think it was in the States – if I’m wrong, don’t judge me too harshly or get angry – one inmate declared himself a woman, he was serving time for rape," he said.

"He declared himself a woman and asked to be moved to a women’s prison. They moved him, then he raped his cellmate. There has to be common sense in everything.

"Or athletes. A man declares himself a woman and competes in weightlifting, let’s say, or some other sport.

"Women’s sport will cease to exist. There has to be some kind of common sense. I support a traditional approach, where a man is a man and a woman is a woman. Mum is mum and dad is dad."

Campaigners against the legislation proposals in the US, which have achieved varying levels of success and led to demonstrations at the Senate, have said that requiring athletes to compete in the gender category they were assigned at birth is discriminatory.

LGBT+ civil rights organization The Human Rights Campaign tweeted about Thomas: “Living your truth is an incredible and powerful feeling.

“We’re in solidarity with Lia and all athletes who compete in the sports they love and on teams consistent with their gender identity.”