It’s been quite a while since we celebrated any of Sharron Davies’s considerable achievements in the pool – well, a bronze and a silver in 1990 at Auckland was the last time – but I would bet a box full of brand-new Speedos to a secondhand pair of goggles that nothing has made her prouder than her part in World Athletics’ decision to ban transgender women from competing in female international events. She has campaigned for this for years with great courage and at considerable cost.
Without her energy and bravery, it is possible that Seb Coe could have fudged the solution announced last week, when he ruled that he was following swimming and rugby rather than cycling and rowing, and there was no fair way to include transgender athletes in elite women’s sport. And thank heaven for that. ‘I’m so pleased Seb has protected female athletes around the world at long last. It’s been a struggle though,’ Davies said afterwards. ‘Sport is about safety and fairness, then inclusion – in that order.’ You couldn’t put it better.
It’s not been an easy campaign. She has been scrapped by agents, and even charities she worked with for decades turned their back on her. Davies doesn’t mince her words: ‘There’s so much hate and bullying,’ she told the Mail on Sunday. ‘The trans activists can be so vicious and malicious – they go after your work, after your brand, they attack everything.’
All she deserves now is for her silver in the 400m individual medley in the 1980 Moscow Olympics to be upgraded to gold, after the winner, an East German girl called Petra Schneider, confessed to doping.