‘You have to put facts in front of feelings’: Sharron Davies blasts MSPs on trans athlete row 

Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies has blasted Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice committee, alleging that MSPs are not listening to female athletes amid proposals to reform Scotland’s gender recognition process.

Davies lost out on gold in the 1980 Moscow Olympics to East German swimmer Petra Schneider, who was later pinged for doping with performance enhancing drugs, including testosterone.

But despite being one of Britain’s leading female voices on equality and fairness in sport, she was not invited to give evidence before the committee which is currently scrutinizing legislation that could potentially allow biological male athletes to identify as women.

‘You have to put facts in front of feelings… you can’t feel your way into the bantamweight division if you’re a heavyweight boxer,’ Davies told LBC today during a For Women Scotland conference in Edinburgh.

‘I’m here because I wasn’t invited into the Scottish Parliament, which I think is a real shame. I don’t think that female athletes were given any opportunity to have a voice whatsoever.’

Davies continued: ‘Sport, by definition is exclusionary, so we have fair sport across society. And if we didn’t have that, young fit, males would win everything.

‘We must be just listening and listening to the science and listening to the facts and in sport, which is so relative to a biological reality.’

The committee took evidence last month on the proposal’s impact on sport, hearing from sportscotland and Leap Sport Scotland.

But former Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi, who joined Davies in Edinburgh, revealed that she had written to the committee following the evidence session on sport and was ignored.

‘I’ve just received a reply saying they’re not going to be holding any further sessions on sport,’ she said, explaining that the committee had effectively chosen to ignore the opinions and expertise of female athletes while scrutinizing the legislation.

‘They need to listen to female athletes, and they need to listen to people who care about women’s sport.’

‘You have to put facts in front of feelings… you can’t feel your way into the bantamweight division if you’re a heavyweight boxer,’ Davies old LBC Thursday during a For Women Scotland conference in Edinburgh

Former Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi (left), who joined Davies (right) in Edinburgh, revealed that she had written to the committee following the evidence session on sport and was ignored

Former Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi (left), who joined Davies (right) in Edinburgh, revealed that she had written to the committee following the evidence session on sport and was ignored

Davies fresh comments on the issue come just days after she spoke out against cyclist Emily Bridges who claimed she does not have a performance advantage competing against women despite being born biologically male

Davies fresh comments on the issue come just days after she spoke out against cyclist Emily Bridges who claimed she does not have a performance advantage competing against women despite being born biologically male

The controversial Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill would reduce the length of time required for a trans person to live in their acquired gender from the current two years to three months, with a subsequent three-month reflection period.

The legislation would further remove the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria ahead of an application for a gender recognition certificate, and would drop the minimum age for an application to be made from 18 to 16.

A letter sent to Davies from Joe FitzPatrick, the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice committee’s convener, said the Bill ‘has a number of aspects on which the committee must focus its scrutiny’.

‘You will appreciate that sport is just one of those aspects,’ he wrote, adding that the broader issue of trans inclusion in sport ‘goes far beyond the committee’s scrutiny of the specific provisions’ of the Bill.

‘Following consideration of this issue at the committee’s meeting last week, it made a collective decision not to hold a further evidence session with elite female athletes,’ he said.

Davies told the conference in Edinburgh on Thursday of her experience while competing in the Olympics, where she faced competitors from East Germany.

‘For me, this is a passion that comes from competing for a decade against East Germans,’ she said. ‘Young East German girls were put through male puberty, which is a horrendous thing.’

She added: ‘At the Olympics, I won my silver medal being one of only two people outside the Eastern Bloc that won medals. They took 90 per cent of the women’s medals, and only 5 per cent of the men’s.’

Ms Davies added: ‘If we enable males to be in female sports, you are excluding females from their own category of sport.

‘Sport is exclusionary by nature. The whole reason you have under-10s is so that the under-10s can race and the 12-year-olds don’t go in there and win.’

Yamauchi meanwhile said she felt sport was inclusive ‘until gender identity ideology arrived’, adding: ‘If categories didn’t exist, the only people who would get a look-in would be adult, able-bodied males, since they are the group who have the greatest physical abilities.’

She said: ‘We can all see with our own eyes what gender ideology has done to women’s sport, and I hope that political leaders will put a stop to it now, because a lot of damage has already been done.’

Ms Yamauchi revealed that while she was competing, she chose to self-exclude herself due to ‘unfair competition’ after she suspected her rivals were doping.

‘The same will apply to females facing males in their own category,’ she said.

British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, left, pictured with Petra Schneider, of East Germany, displaying their medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.  Davies won silver while Schneider won gold.  After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Schneider admitted that she was part of East Germany's state-sponsored doping program and joined a lawsuit against those who oversaw it

British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, left, pictured with Petra Schneider, of East Germany, displaying their medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Davies won silver while Schneider won gold. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Schneider admitted that she was part of East Germany’s state-sponsored doping program and joined a lawsuit against those who oversaw it

Sharron Davies missed out on a string of medals going up against East German athletes who were later found to have been doping

Sharron Davies missed out on a string of medals going up against East German athletes who were later found to have been doping

Having heard the comments of Davies and Yamauchi, another former British Olympian, Brian Whittle, said the committee was only inviting people ‘who give the answers they want to hear’.

Whittle described the committee’s hearings as a ‘sham’ and accused them of trying to ‘dodge reality’.

‘What the committee have done quite frankly, is I think they are inviting the people along that will give them the answers that they want… It’s an absolute disgrace. I don’t want to be able to say that because, you know, I really believe in the committee system in Parliament, but in this particular instance, I think we have completely dodged reality here,’ he told LBC.

‘You do not create equality for one group of society by creating inequality for another group of society,’ he concluded.

A Scottish Government spokesperson insisted on changes to the gender recognition process would not heavily influence sports and said the Bill would ‘provide for exceptions to be made’.

‘Sports governing bodies set their own rules for participation of trans people, under the Equality Act 2010 and also provide for exceptions to be made in relation to sports and games where physical strength, stamina, or physique of average persons of one sex would put them at a disadvantage,’ the spokesperson said.

Davies fresh comments on the issue come just days after she spoke out against cyclist Emily Bridges, who claimed she does not enjoy any performance advantages as a male-to-female transgender athlete over her biological female competitors.

In a series of tweets, Davies said Bridges is ‘not a woman’, called her inclusion in women’s sports ‘unfair’ and claimed that she would be banned from competing if she had ‘as much testosterone in my system as Emily Bridges is allowed’ .

The former GB swimmer also posted: ‘Emily Bridges has never been barred from sport or ever will be. EB was competing last year & earlier this year successfully in the men’s category. Inclusion is being able to compete, its not getting an unfair advantage’.

Bridges, pictured here in August 2018 competing as a man, had set a national junior men's record over 25 miles in the same year

Bridges meanwhile, who came out as a transgender woman in October 2020

Bridges, pictured left in August 2018 competing in the men’s category, and pictured right as Emily Bridges

And she added: ‘If we get to the point where we can’t talk facts because it might hurt someone’s feeling where the hell is this going to lead us? How can we measure feelings? Why is one persons feelings more important than another persons feelings? See…feelings cannot be a measurement of truth.’

Between 1975 and 1985, Davies missed out on a string of medals while competing against East German drug cheats. She believes there are parallels between the state-sponsored doping campaigns and transgender athletes taking hormone-suppression medication in a quest to win medals in women’s categories.

Bridges meanwhile, who came out as a transgender woman in October 2020, made headlines in March when she was barred from competing against Olympic hero Dame Laura Kenny in the British National Omnium Championships at the 11th hour by world governing body UCI.

Earler this month, she won an ‘inclusive’ cycling race against women competitors at Herne Hill velodrome in South-East London. In second place was Lilly Chant who, despite identifying as a woman, is still designated as male on official records.

The tournament’s best-performing biological woman, Jo Smith, won bronze.

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