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Olympic medallist Sharron Davies has accused a Labour MP of ‘abandoning’ women’s rights after she defended a transgender swimmer.

Former women’s and equalities spokesman Charlotte Nichols said it was ‘lazy transphobia’ to criticise Lia Thomas who became the first transgender athlete to win a US college championship.

Miss Thomas, 22, who competed as a man until three years ago, is now just one step away from the Olympics after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle last Thursday.

Olympian swimmer Sharron Davies (pictured) called out Charlotte Nichols MP, accusing her of misunderstanding elite sport and abandoning women's rights in a row over whether trans women should be allowed to compete in female sport

Olympian swimmer Sharron Davies (pictured) called out Charlotte Nichols MP, accusing her of misunderstanding elite sport and abandoning women's rights in a row over whether trans women should be allowed to compete in female sport

Olympian swimmer Sharron Davies (pictured) called out Charlotte Nichols MP, accusing her of misunderstanding elite sport and abandoning women’s rights in a row over whether trans women should be allowed to compete in female sport

Charlotte Nichols (pictured) said she used to swim competitively and that she is confident she is on the right side of history in the debate over trans athletes

Charlotte Nichols (pictured) said she used to swim competitively and that she is confident she is on the right side of history in the debate over trans athletes

Charlotte Nichols (pictured) said she used to swim competitively and that she is confident she is on the right side of history in the debate over trans athletes

Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas (pictured) is the first known transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship

Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas (pictured) is the first known transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship

Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas (pictured) is the first known transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship

Warrington North MP Miss Nichols said that, as a former competitive swimmer, she knew how much training was required for the ‘incredible achievement’. However her comments sparked more than 2,000 critical responses on social media – including from former swimmer Miss Davies.

The silver medallist tweeted: ‘Disgraceful abandonment of women’s right to equal opportunities in sport. So disappointing from an MP supposedly representing females too I presume?

‘A total misunderstanding of elite sport. I seriously question your understanding of high level performance competition [and] training.’

It came after two senior Labour MPs, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and party chairman Anneliese Dodds, refused to define the word ‘female’.

The party’s leader Sir Keir Starmer also provoked a backlash – including from author JK Rowling – for saying it was ‘actually the law’ that trans women are women.

Lia Thomas (pictured holding her trophy) won the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA swimming and diving championships last Thursday

Lia Thomas (pictured holding her trophy) won the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA swimming and diving championships last Thursday

Lia Thomas (pictured holding her trophy) won the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA swimming and diving championships last Thursday

The latest row was sparked by Miss Thomas’s victory in the NCAA Division I championship in Atlanta.

The US swimmer, who finished outside the NCAA’s top 500 when competing as a man, started hormone therapy in 2019.

She was allowed to compete last week under rules that require an athlete to undergo a year of testosterone suppression.

However her victory – which saw her beat two Olympic medallists – was met with boos from the crowd as well as an outcry from sporting legends. Tennis star Martina Navratilova suggested the NCAA put an asterisk next to Miss Thomas’ name while World Athletics president Sebastian Coe warned that ‘gender cannot trump biology’.

As the debate continued online this week, a Twitter user asked Miss Nichols what she thought.

She replied: ‘As a former competitive swimmer, I know full well how much training is required for a title like this. Anyone nastily trying to diminish Lia Thomas’s incredible achievement because of lazy transphobia should frankly pipe down. Huge congratulations to her.’

As she came under attack, Miss Nichols said she was ‘not worried it’s me who is on history’s wrong side here’.

She added that Miss Thomas was not ‘unbeatable’ as she had finished fifth and eight in other races at the same competition.

And she said: ‘If you actually want to save women’s sport, you’d be focused on unequal funding and endemic sexual harassment/safeguarding failures by coaches, not on excluding trans women from participating.’

Tory MP Mark Jenkinson said Miss Nichols’ comments were ‘virtue signalling’ and were ‘out of touch with the vast majority of her electorate’.

Source: Daily Mail

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