Eilish McColgan on trans debate: One per cent advantage is too much
Eilish McColgan, the reigning Commonwealth Games 10,000 metres champion, says it is “too much” for transgender athletes to compete in women’s elite sport even if they have retained only a one per cent advantage.
World Athletics has controversially put forward a “preferred option” for consultation that transgender athletes should continue in women’s events provided they reduce their testosterone to below 2.5 nanomoles per litre for at least two years.
This is stricter than the current five nanomoles per litre limit but has already prompted a significant backlash and McColgan, who will step up to the marathon distance in London in April, has suggested that the fairest solution might be an open category.
Stressing that she wanted to see transgender athletes participate in sport and that she had limited knowledge on the subject, McColgan also urged World Athletics to consult widely before finalising their policy, including with Caitlyn Jenner, who won the 1976 Olympic decathlon title as Bruce Jenner, before transitioning at the end of her career.
'I have to trust Seb Coe is doing due diligence'
“I don’t know the science, I am not a scientist, so I always have to trust that the people like Seb Coe and the IAAF [World Athletics] are doing their due diligence and are looking into this properly because I think there is a lot more to being a woman than just lowering your testosterone,” McColgan said. “Hormones aside, what we go through every single month within the menstrual cycle; we are not just reduced-testosterone humans. I think there is a lot more work to be done with regards to finding out, ‘Is there an advantage?’ because, even if it is a one per cent advantage, then it is too much.
“I am more than happy for transgender athletes to be included. They need to be included, but maybe the fairest way with regards to women being a protected category – born women – is that we have like an open category and an XX genetically-born category or something along those lines.”
McColgan’s comments follow Amelia Strickler, Beth Dobbin, Emily Diamond and Ellie Baker, four other hopefuls for the Paris Olympics next year, who have explicitly said that they do not think that transgender athletes should compete in women’s events.
'I already get trolled a huge amount'
Jenner has previously also backed Fina, swimming’s governing body, for ruling that transgender women who have gone through puberty should not take part in women’s competition. McColgan said that she had not been openly public on such a contentious and sensitive issue previously due to concerns both over the reaction on social media and an acceptance that she lacks expertise on the subject. “I already get trolled a huge amount,” she said.
“I think it is important that we listen to people [who]... understand it a hell of a lot more than me.
“I don’t have the answers. I think the best person to speak about this would be Caitlyn Jenner. The stuff that I’ve learnt about this policy is all from Twitter. I don’t know what is right and who is right and what is wrong and who is wrong. That’s my honest reason as to why I haven’t been so public and vocal.”
McColgan’s personal focus just now is preparing for the London Marathon, her first race over the distance, and an event her mother Liz won in 1996. Liz, who coaches Eilish, has long believed that her daughter’s best distance can be the marathon and she will go into London off the back of the best year of her career. As well as the Commonwealth and European medals, she set a series of national records on the road.
“Last year was better than I could have written for myself,” said McColgan. “I won’t turn away entirely from the track. But the priority is the marathon. The longer stuff, in training anyway, seems to be what I’m strongest at.”
Paula Radcliffe, the British record-holder over the marathon, believes that McColgan could run under 2hr 20min this year, which would instantly make her second on the British all-time list, and that 2-17 or 2-16 might one day be possible, which would put her up with the world's elite.