Athletics legend Jane Flemming, now president of Athletics Australia (AA), is facing calls to protect women’s only categories in the sport. The Olympian and double Commonwealth Games champion is in a perfect position to ensure fair and safe competition for all athletes:
AA's community policy currently allows for transgender females to compete in the female category, but Flemming has staunchly defended the female category and stated that transgender athletes are a safety risk to female competitors.
'I think it is really important for us to protect the female category and to try and almost define the female category as having no male advantage,' Flemming told SBS's Insight program in 2022.
'It's something we've fought for for so long, to have that fair platform, that fair stage for women to compete.
'I think we are at a very interesting turning point in sport and certainly in women's sport and if it is not dealt with collectively, I think, the integrity of women's sport is absolutely under question.'
There are male and female categories for a reason. The physiological make-up of a body is determined by the reality of that person’s biological sex, not their feelings or identity. Regardless of what costumes or names or drugs males prefer, they are still male and have a distinct advantage over females when it comes to strength, speed and stamina.
'I think we need to look at other solutions that can absolutely be inclusive, but I don't think inclusive in this case can override fairness because fairness is the fundamental philosophy that underpins competitive sport.'
In 2020, Flemming stated that transgender athletes were a safety risk to female competitors.
'The difficulty is that for the human species that's been born biological male, if they go through puberty in particular, they have, absolutely, have some physiological advantages,' she told the ABC's 7.30 program.
'Whether it is bone strength or extra capillarisation or larger muscle bulk, but then there are other aspects of that as well, not only does that affect performance but there is a health or a danger aspect.'
Athletics Australia's guidelines state “the participant’s gender identity shall determine the gender category they participate in”, except for elite levels. This disadvantages women and girls at community level and gives them no ability to oppose the policy. It is unfair and unsafe and results in many females walking away from competition.
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