Ed Miliband rejects 'blanket ban' on trans athletes in women's sport

Labour’s Ed Miliband REJECTS ‘blanket ban’ on trans athletes in top-level women’s sport… suggesting darts and snooker might be exceptions (even though both sexes can already compete in those)

  • The former Labour leader rebukes the PM for having ‘blundered’ into a row 
  • Ed Miliband says rules should be decided by sports’ bodies and not politicians 
  • He risks ridicule with claim sports could differ in approach – as they already do

Labour’s Ed Miliband has spoken out against a blanket ban on transgender athletes competing in women’s sports events as he accused Boris Johnson of having ‘blundered’ into a row.

The shadow minister stressed there should be ‘fairness’ among competitors, but insisted the issue should be left for sports’ governing bodies – and not politicians – to decide on.

But Mr Miliband, who led Labour between 2010 and 2015, risked ridicule when he suggested that some sports – such as snooker and darts – could have different rules on transgender competitors compared to other sports, like swimming.

Both snooker and darts already have no gender restrictions on who can compete in elite-level competition.

Labour’s Ed Miliband accused Boris Johnson of having ‘blundered’ into a row over transgender athletes competing  in women’s events

American swimmer Lia Thomas last month became the first known transgender athlete to win the highest US national college title. Some protestors were outside the venue and in the stands as she swam to victory

Emily Bridges (above) – a cyclist who won medals at university level racing as a man before transitioning – has announced she will start competing in female events

The recent row over trans athletes has come after controversy surrounding Emily Bridges – a cyclist who won medals at university level racing as a man before transitioning.

She has announced she will start competing in female events.

Last month, American swimmer Lia Thomas became the first known transgender athlete to win the highest US national college title.

Some protestors were outside the venue and in the stands as she swam to victory.

Mr Miliband today issued a rebuke to the prime minister for having waded into the issue.

Mr Johnson on Wednesday said he didn’t think ‘biological men should be competing in female sporting events’.

Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies (left) and Olympic champion cyclist Nicole Cooke (right) both praised the PM after his intervention

Sports stars who oppose trans women competing in female-only events

Sharron Davies: The swimmer  says the argument about trans women competing in female events is simply a matter of ‘biology’.

Last month she wrote in the Mail on Sunday: ‘When Lia Thomas competed as a man before her transition two years ago, she was an average swimmer at university level, outside the top 500 for the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

‘Lia has been taking testosterone-suppression medication for the required last 12 months, as stipulated in the NCAA rules, but no amount of it can reverse the physical benefits of male puberty.

‘She has greater upper-body strength and significantly more muscle mass than a woman of the same weight and height. She has a greater lung capacity, better VO2 uptake, different bone density, she is nearly 6ft 4in tall and has large hands and feet that act like paddles.

She is a male competing against females and it is hugely unfair.’ 

Martina Navratilova: The tennis great has called for transgender swimmer Lia Thomas to have an asterisk by her name when she wins women’s races, arguing that the 22-year-old athlete’s racing against biological females is unfair and should be noted.

Navratilova, widely considered to be among the world’s greatest ever tennis players, said that the current rules, permitting Thomas to compete as a woman because she has completed the required year of testosterone-reduction treatment, were wrong.

‘It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning ever,’ the 65-year-old said. ‘But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men.’

Dame Kelly Holmes: The Olympic gold medal has lent her support to the Fair Play for Women campaign, which insists that female athletes are at a clear disadvantage against trans rivals.


Speaking to Sky News, Mr Miliband said: ‘I’m afraid this is the case where the prime minister blundered in yesterday… suddenly he comes up with a view.’

Giving his own thoughts on the issue, the shadow climate change secretary said there was a need for ‘fairness’ in sporting competitions.

‘I think that is a decision for the sporting bodies though,’ Mr Miliband added.

‘I think it’s different in different sports. I was reading the document that UK Sport produced on this. They were saying snooker and darts might be different from swimming or other sports.

‘I don’t think you should have a blanket ban. I think it’s for the sporting bodies.’

He continued: ‘I trust that sporting bodies can take this seriously without the politicians blundering in.’

The former Labour leader also voiced his fears about the impact of the recent row on the trans community.

‘I think we’re showing there are tricky issues here,’ Mr Miliband said.

‘But, I come back to this point, which is how would you be feeling as a trans person after the kind of debates that have been had in the last few weeks?

‘I think you’d be feeling awful.’

Following the PM’s intervention over trans athletes, LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall urged ministers to avoid ‘inflammatory rhetoric’.

The campaigning group also described a blanket ban on trans people competing in sports events as ‘fundamentally unfair’.

However, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng insisted that many Britons would also hold the same opinion as Mr Johnson on the issue.

‘I think we’ve seen in America and other places people who are biological males smash records and win lots and lots of races and I think that’s unfair,’ he told Sky News.

‘I think what the prime minister said chimes with millions of people’s views up and down the country – that it’s unfair to have biological males competing with biological females in things like swimming contests and cycling.’

Mr Kwarteng offered his full backing to the PM’s comments about trans athletes, adding: ‘It was very refreshing to hear the leading politician in our country be very clear about that.

‘I happen to agree with him on this.’

Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies and Olympic champion cyclist Nicole Cooke have also both praised Mr Johnson after his intervention.

Ms Davies, 59, a long-term opponent of trans athletes competing in female categories, said; ‘Thank you Boris.’

Ms Cooke, 38, added: ‘Really pleased to see UK politicians working towards fair sports categories for trans athletes and women athletes.’ 

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