Female Athletes Suffer from Transphobia and Testosterone Restrictions in the Sports World

Female Athletes

At the start of October in Hangzhou, China, during the 19th Asian Games, Indian heptathlete Swapna Barman lost a bronze medal match to Nandini Agasara. This led to a controversy. Swapna claimed on social media that a “transgender” woman had won the medal instead of her, a claim the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) swiftly refuted. The athlete later extended her sincere regrets, but her allegations exposed a persistent, structural issue in the sports industry: the unbreakable connection between transphobia and the ongoing scrutiny of the bodies of all female athletes.

Throughout the years, athletes who do not conform to the standard of a conventional female physicality have been subject to ongoing scrutiny due to the problematic belief that a trans woman’s body offers an inherent athletic advantage over that of a cisgender woman. Sex verification tests have been humiliatingly applied to many cisgender female athletes, with often dire repercussions for both their personal and professional lives.

Swapna, an Indian gold medallist from the 2018 Asian Games, was a strong contender to win gold at the 19th Asian Games. The 27-year-old, who was expected to retire from sports owing to a spinal injury, chose to compete in the Asian Games this year.

However, on October 1, Nandini Agasara, a 20-year-old from Telangana, finished just ahead of Swapna, who scored 5,708 points overall, to win a bronze medal in the women’s heptathlon.

Without naming any athlete, Swapna claimed on X (formerly Twitter) the day after the competition that she lost the medal to a “transgender women (sic)”. She stated, “I have lost my Asian Games bronze medal to a transgender woman at the 19th Asian Games held in Hangzhou, China,” in the previously removed post. Given that it is against our athletics rules, I would like my medal returned. Please assist and stand by me, using the hashtag #protestforfairplay.

In an interview with reporters, she restated her criticism of Nandini and questioned how, having trained for just four months, she was able to put on such a show. Having trained for over 13 years, I am aware of the amount of work required to get to my current level. Nandini has only been training for four months. How in the world was she going to medal at the Asian Games? She told the press, “I want the federation to look into this because I doubt her gender.

Meanwhile, Nandini denied the claims and said she would bring the matter up with the AFI. She questioned Barman’s decision to not bring up the matter sooner as well.

“Why did she remain silent when I began competing? She questioned, “How can someone say something like this about another woman?” and claimed that when someone becomes successful, others have a tendency to put others down. Additionally, the AFI called Swapna’s accusations “baseless” and demanded an explanation from her regarding her behaviour from the federation.

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