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Martina Navratilova Is Sorry But Doubles Down on Anti-Trans Comments

Martina Navratilova

The tennis champ apologized for calling trans athletes "cheaters" but continued to make problematic statements.

Tennis champion Martina Navratilova has apologized for anti-trans statements she made in a column late last month in which she said that allowing trans athletes to compete in women's sports was "insane and cheating." But then she doubled down on her anti-trans rhetoric, writing in a blog on her site that there's no "perfect solution" for how to integrate trans women into sports.

"[If] everyone were included, women's sports as we know them would cease to exist," she wrote.

Despite blowback from activists around her anti-trans statements and losing her status as an ambassador for Athlete Ally as a result, Navratilova narrowly apologized for her "cheating" statements, then dug in on her stance about trans athletes in the latest blog post.

She even conflated trans women competing with Lance Armstrong's illegal use of steroids.

"I know that my use of the word 'cheat' caused particular offence among the transgender community. I'm sorry for that because I certainly was not suggesting that transgender athletes in general are cheats. I attached the label to a notional case in which someone cynically changes gender, perhaps temporarily, to gain a competitive advantage," Navratilova wrote. "We should not be blind to the possibility and some of these rules are making that possible and legal. The context may be different, but the case of Lance Armstrong and the harm he did to his sport is surely instructive."

The 59-time Grand Slam winner, who came out publicly as a lesbian in 1981, also called out LGBTQ people for not standing by her and accused Athlete Ally of "jettisoning" her as an ambassador in the wake of her problematic column for the Sunday Times of London last month.

On her site she wrote:

"When I got into a Twitter feud with some activists about who should and should not be allowed to compete on a professional level, I said I would educate myself more. That did not mean I would be getting a degree or a doctorate in all things transgender. But I did learn a few things and wrote an opinion piece for The Sunday Times (published February 17).

"What I really wanted to do was try to open up the debate about equality and fairness in relation to transgender participation in women's sport. There were too many voices that were silenced and shamed into submission and that is not right. My aim was to encourage a more scientific, rather than emotional, conversation and to search for a solution that would work better than current arrangements. I was motivated by concern about the future of women's sport and my worry that by trying to be fair and inclusive for one group, others can be adversely affected, that eliminating one kind of discrimination can inadvertently give rise to another."

Navratilova first came under fire for problematic statements about trans athletes in December of last year in a tweet.

"You can't just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women," the tweet read, "There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard."

At the time, trans track cyclist Rachel McKinnon, who last October became the first trans woman to win a world title in her sport, went after Navratilova for her statements. The tennis star deleted the offending tweet and said that she would "educate" herself.

After the promise to "educate" herself on the subject, Navratilova reemerged emboldened with the column in the Sunday Times.

"Ever the peacemaker, I promised to keep quiet on the subject until I had properly researched it. Well, I've now done that and, if anything, my views have strengthened," she wrote in the column.

"To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization 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," Navratilova wrote.

The International Olympics Committee in 2016 adopted guidelines for trans athletes that did not mandate that trans athletes undergo gender confirmation surgery in order to compete. While there are no restrictions placed on trans male athletes under IOC guidelines, trans women are required to show that following hormone therapy, their testosterone levels have fallen under a particular amount.

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