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Leo tackles transgender athlete debate

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Dan Leo smashes head long into transgender athlete debate on Twitter

One of sport’s most hotly debated topics currently is transgender athletes competing in women’s sport.
This subject was brought into sharp relief recently with former Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova’s documentary, The Trans Women Athlete Dispute with Martina Navratilova, which explored the science behind this, and whether transgender women are at a greater advantage.

Former Olympians such as Dame Kelly Holmes, Sharron Davies and Paula Radcliffe have also called for more research into this area, and have expressed their reservations. In doing so, they have been branded ‘transphobic’ by some, and it has therefore been avoided by other sports stars.

This is not an issue that has really been discussed in the rugby community, but former Samoa international and long-time Wasps player Dan Leo has weighed in on the debate. He explained on Twitter how his sister missed out on playing representative volleyball in Australia in favour of a transgender athlete, and has shown his disapproval.

He has previously highlighted that eventually, a transgender woman will want to play rugby, suggesting that there should be a transgender competition to avoid something that may always be a contentious topic. This was in reaction to women’s weightlifting, and transgender athletes competing there. He has said that this makes women’s fight for equal opportunity “more challenging if not impossible”.

This has caused a huge storm on Twitter, and while there are a lot of people that support Leo, he has equally received some criticism, such as from trans athlete Athena del Rosario, who called him “pathetic”. Nonetheless, he has stuck by his view.

Leo has also said that there has been a “deafening silence of men on the issue”, despite the swathes of comments on his posts.

He has related this to rugby players taking steroids when they are younger, and therefore technically being clean when they are professional, although they have a distinct advantage.

While Leo may face a rebuke from many on social media, as have many female sports stars already, he is one of the first in the rugby sphere to put his neck on the line about this and he should be commended.

Of course this is not black and white, and that is why there is a demand for more research into the topic so that people can have a greater grasp of whether it should be accepted or not. For example, a lot goes down to when the transition took place in determining whether a transgender woman would have an advantage over her opponents.

But Leo is clearly impassioned about this issue and has written about this extensively on Twitter. He may be one of the first to raise it to the rugby world, as it will need to be addressed at some point, and that has proven to be very controversial in other sports.

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Dan Leo smashes head long into transgender athlete debate on Twitter