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“If you want to say, ‘Well, I believe you’re a woman for all of society except this massive central part that is sport,’ then that’s not fair”

Dr Rachel McKinnon has defended her right to race ahead of the UCI Masters Track World Championships in Manchester this weekend. McKinnon became the first transgender athlete to win a world title in any sport when she took the 200 metres world title in the 35-44 women’s sprint category last October.

McKinnon took silver in the 500m time trial earlier this week and set a new world best time in qualifying in the sprint earlier today.

However, she has frequently faced arguments that she should not compete in female competitions.

Earlier this year, she responded to comments made by Sharron Davies by tweeting a photo of the former swimmer, suggesting that if it were posted alongside the question "Do you think it's fair for this trans women to compete in women's sport?" a lot of people would be calling Davies a man.

"There's a stereotype that men are always stronger than women, so people think there is an unfair advantage,” McKinnon told Sky News. “By preventing trans women from competing or requiring them to take medication, you're denying their human rights."

A recent study by Sweden's Karolinska Institute suggests the impact of hormone treatment on the leg strength of women who have transitioned from being male is almost negligible.

Asked if she accepted it was possible that transgender women retained a physical advantage, McKinnon replied: "Is it possible? Yes it is possible. But there are elite track cyclists who are bigger than me.

"There is a range of body sizes and strength. You can be successful with massively different body shapes. To take a British example, look at Victoria Pendleton, an Olympic champion with teeny tiny legs.

"In many Olympic disciplines the gap in performance is bigger between first and eighth in a single sex event than it is between the first man and the first woman."

McKinnon says that sport is central to society, “so if you want to say, ‘Well, I believe you’re a woman for all of society except this massive central part that is sport,’ then that’s not fair. So fairness is the inclusion of trans women.”

Asked whether trans inclusion was more important than retaining a category for women in sport, McKinnon replied: "I think what you’re asking me is, 'Is it more important that trans people are included, than it is to retain fairness in sport?'

"My point is that trans inclusion is fairness: it is unfair to exclude trans women. This is much bigger than sport in that it's the proxy for all of trans inclusion in society. Talk of bathrooms has shifted into sport by people who don't care about sport, so I think it’s clear that this issue is bigger than sport."

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