Squash club sparks sexism row after giving vibrator prize to female athlete

Maya Oppenheim

A squash club in Spain has been accused of sexism after it awarded female competitors a vibrator, hair removal wax and a kit to remove foot calluses.

The top women players of the Asturias championship in northern Spain wrote to the local squash federation to voice their frustrations about the saga.

Elisabet Sado, who won the competition, received a trophy and a vibrator. Olaya Fernandez Lence, Marina Arraiza Mier and Cristina Barandica Fernandez, who finished second, third and fourth respectively, also received gifts which included an electronic foot file or hair removal wax. Their male counterparts did not get any additional presents to go along with their trophies.

“We were very surprised, very shocked,” Ms Sado told the BBC. “We think it’s very sexist. We wanted to explain it to everybody because we think ... there’s a lot of discrimination [against women in sport] and things have to change.”

Ms Sado said she was pleased the incident had prompted people across Spain to discuss sexism in sport.

She said: “I think the important thing is that there is a public debate and laws in Spain and more protection so women can practise sport”.

The ordeal has sparked resignations at the club that organised the event and the squash club has been forced to apologise.

The women sent back the prizes to the local squash federation along with their letter of complaint. The federation immediately helped them to take action.

Almudena Cueto, the director of the Asturian Women’s Institute, met the four players after they gave their trophies back.

“They returned the gifts and decided to make a formal complaint so something like this would never happen. What’s occurred is shameful. It’s left us speechless,” Ms Cueto said.

An image of the prizes was posted online by local radio show Ganamos Con Ellas (We Win With Women), which described them as “degrading, shocking, harmful, inconceivable but sadly real.”

“We understand the reaction and deeply regret this unacceptable incident,” said an official statement signed by the squash club’s president Nacho Manzano and acting president Barbara Fernandez.

“The club reiterates its apologies to players, the federation and people or entities offended by the discomfort caused by inappropriate gifts and that should never have been delivered.”

The squash federation said three Squash Oviedo officials – including Ms Manzano – have stepped down since the saga.