Sonia O'Sullivan: Transgender athletes 'without a doubt' have unfair advantage in sport

She was speaking after a US swimmer won a freestyle relay, but was not recognised
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.12 24 Mar 2022

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Sonia O'Sullivan: Transgender...

Sonia O'Sullivan: Transgender athletes 'without a doubt' have unfair advantage in sport

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.12 24 Mar 2022

Share this article

World champion and Irish Olympian Sonia O'Sullivan says transgender people 'without a doubt' have an unfair advantage in sport.

She was speaking after US swimmer Lia Thomas won a 400 yard freestyle relay last week.

Ms Thomas had previously competed on the University of Pennsylvania men's team for three years, before transitioning and moving to the women's team.


However, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis refused to recognise the win.

Mr DeSantis said he believed the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was "trying to undermine the integrity of the competition".

He also said runner-up Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant was the winner of the event.

Sonia told The Hard Shoulder it is not a fair playing field.

"It's on the fringes of sport at the moment - but it's something that a lot of people are wondering about, if it's something that should be allowed or not in women's sport.

"That a male who becomes a transgender woman, are they allowed to then compete against biological women?

"With the science behind it all, it just doesn't make sense that they should be allowed to do that."

Sonia says men have a different level of ability to women.

"Without a doubt they have an unfair advantage... they take hormones to reduce their testosterone levels, but that's just one factor.

"There's so many other factors in male adults compared to female adults that make them stronger.

"They're at a different level of ability compared to women, that you can't compete.

"When you've already separated the sports into men's and women's sports - then to allow a variable in that the balance is then thrown off - it just doesn't make sense for that to happen, without considering the women who are already in the sport who have been competing and training... throughout their life.

"All of a sudden they've got to face somebody who's just decided - they obviously decide for very personal reasons why they change - but then to also take part in sport, which is for women".

'Everything is politically correct'

She says political correctness means we are forgetting other people already there.

"We're in a world now where everything is politically correct, and we try to say and do things [that are] politically correct.

"But I think sometimes by doing that, we kind of forget the people who were in a position already.

"So it's the nuances that are out there that we adapt to, but we forget about what was there already.

"So why are we not protecting everybody, rather than just protecting the people who are changing?

"We all respect people, who they are and how they want to identify - but it's a bit like drug testing.

"The drug testing always seems to favour people who are cheating, rather than people who are not cheating.

"They're given every chance to prove that they're not cheating - whereas the people who are definitely not cheating, they're then handicapped by that.

"They're the ones who have to go through all these processes as well, and they've done nothing wrong".

Sonia O'Sullivan: Transgender athletes 'without a doubt' have unfair advantage in sport

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Main image: Former Olympic silver medalist and World and European 5000m Champion Sonia O'Sullivan in Cork in April 2013. Picture by: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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Governor Ron DeSantis Lia Thomas Ncaa Sonia O'Sullivan The Hard Shoulder Transgender Athletes Transgender People University Of Pennsylvania

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