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Martina Navratilova: It’s ‘Cheating’ to Allow Trans Athletes in Women’s Sports

Michael Foust | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Martina Navratilova: It’s ‘Cheating’ to Allow Trans Athletes in Women’s Sports

Martina Navratilova: It’s ‘Cheating’ to Allow Trans Athletes in Women’s Sports

A well-known and groundbreaking gay athlete has spoken out about transgenderism and sports -- and her comments don’t fit the LGBT narrative.

Martina Navratilova, a professional tennis player who came out as a lesbian in 1981, caused a stir in December when she spoke out against biological men competing as women. She deleted those tweets and pledged to study the issue. But in a Feb. 17 article for The Sunday Times, she says her beliefs have only “strengthened” and that it is unfair for biological men to compete as women in sports. Navratilova was an 18-time Grand Slam winner

“To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires,” she wrote. “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.”

In Connecticut, biological males have won state championships in girls’ track and field. Elsewhere, a biological male who completes as a female won a cycling world championship. That transgender woman, Rachel McKinnon, was required to lower testosterone levels before competing.  

Navratilova, though, says men who compete as women have life-long natural advantages even if they do lower their testosterone levels.  

“Simply reducing hormone levels -- the prescription most sports have adopted -- does not solve the problem,” Navratilova wrote. “A man builds up muscle and bone density, as well as a greater number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, from childhood. Training increases the discrepancy. Indeed, if a male were to change gender in such a way as to eliminate any accumulated advantage, he would have to begin hormone treatment before puberty. For me, that is unthinkable.”

Men, she added, are winning championships as females that they never could have won as males. 

“Hundreds of athletes who have changed gender by declaration and limited hormone treatment have already achieved honours as women that were beyond their capabilities as men, especially in sports in which power rather than skill is paramount,” Navratilova wrote. “McKinnon is just one example. That may uphold the International Olympic Committee’s charter, which holds that ‘the practice of sport is a human right’, but it is surely unfair on women who have to compete against people who, biologically, are still men.”

Navratilova concluded by urging transgender supporters not to call her names. She bemoaned the “growing tendency among transgender activists to denounce anyone who argues against them and to label them all as ‘transphobes.’”

“That’s just another form of tyranny,” she wrote. “I’m relatively tough and was able to stand up for myself in my Twitter exchange with McKinnon, but I worry that others may be cowed into silence or submission.”


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Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog,

Photo courtesy: Braden Collum/Unsplash

Martina Navratilova: It’s ‘Cheating’ to Allow Trans Athletes in Women’s Sports