Olympic gold medalist Emma McKeon spoke about transgender athletes in competition at an event held by Griffith University in Australia on Wednesday.
“I mean, I personally wouldn’t want to be racing against someone who is biologically a male, so that’s a concern,” the Australian swimmer said. “It’s not a new thing, but it’s new in that sport, swimming, are going to have to deal with it.”
McKeon became the first woman swimmer to earn seven medals in a single Olympics last summer in Tokyo.
The debate surrounding the participation of transgender athletes has grown in recent months, especially in the wake of Lia Thomas becoming the first transgender woman to win an NCAA title in March. Many, including Olympic silver medalist Erica Sullivan, have spoken out in support of Thomas, but others have also spoken out against her participation in women’s competitions.
Multiple Republican-led states have passed anti-transgender legislation in recent months, banning transgender athletes from competing in school-sanctioned girls’ sports. While Utah Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed such a bill in mid-March, calling the science “conflicting,” the state legislature later overturned the veto.
“Now that it’s a growing thing, the sport has to think about how to handle it and how to deal with it,” McKeon said. “Because you do want to be inclusive, but you don’t want to have females racing against swimmers who are biologically male because it’s just not fair.”
In response, Swimming Australia president Tracy Stockwell told ABC Sport that the Australian sport’s governing body had been working out how to address the issue over the past two years. She admitted they could do more to provide clarity around transgender athlete participation.
“We’ve done a lot of consultation over the last two years and a lot of work in this area, but also more discussion needs to be had,” she said. “We are an inclusive sport. We have a diversity and inclusive policy, but also need to ensure fairness for all of our athletes as well.”
Currently, the International Olympic Committee advises that sports consider inclusion of transgender athletes on a case-by-case basis, particularly in individual sports.