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Czech tennis legend Martina Navratilova sparks transgender controversy

Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech tennis legend Martina Navratilova, considered one of the best female tennis players of all time, has sparked the anger of some LGBT organisations over comments she made about transgender athletes.

In an op-ed published by British newspaper The Sunday Times on February 17, the 18-times Grand Slam winner wrote that “a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation 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”.

She added that “it’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair”.

Athlete Ally, a U.S.-based organisation that defends the right of transgender sportspeople, announced it cut all links with Navratilova after her comments and fired her from its advisory board and as an ambassador. The Prague-born tennis champion had been taking part to advocacy campaigns with the organisation since 2014. A long-time gay rights activist who came out as gay in the 1981, Martina Navratilova married her long-term partner Julia Lemigova in New York in 2014.

“Martina Navratilova’s recent comments on trans-athletes are transphobic, based on a false understanding of science and data, and perpetuate dangerous myths that lead to the ongoing targeting of trans-people through discriminatory laws, hateful stereotypes and disproportionate violence”, Athlete Ally said in a statement.

Rachel McKinnon, the first transgender woman to win a world track cycling title last year, also said Navratilova’s comments were “disturbing, upsetting and deeply transphobic”.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) allows female-to-male transgender athletes to participate without any restrictions. Male-to-female athletes, however, have to comply with some conditions and keep their levels of testosterone below a certain level for a period of 12 months.

Last year, the 62-years-old Czech tennis star had sparked controversy after revealing that other tennis legend John McEnroe was paid “at least ten times as much as her” when both were working as sports commentators and pundits for the BBC.

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