In the aftermath of the highly competitive 2023 Asian Games Heptathlon, where athletes from across the continent showcased their skills and determination, controversy has erupted as a heptathlete who narrowly missed the podium accused the third-place bronze medal winner of being transgender.
Testerone Levels Called Into Question
India’s Swapna Barman, who finished in fourth place, expressed her grievances on social media, claiming that she had lost her bronze medal to a transgender woman, sparking a heated debate about fairness and sportsmanship.
In a now-deleted post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Barman wrote, “I want my medal back as it is against the rules of our Athletics. Help me and support me, please. #protestforfairplay.”
In an interview, Swapna Barman doubled down on her claims, stating, “If I do not get this medal which I deserved, I shall expose everyone. Everyone can see the injustice that I am being subjected to.”
Barman continued her protest by pointing out the regulations concerning transgender athletes, emphasizing that those with testosterone levels exceeding 2.5 cannot compete in events beyond 200 meters.
Impossible as a Girl
She expressed skepticism that a heptathlete could achieve such rapid progress, stating, “No girl can come up in heptathlon so fast. I have trained for 13 years in this; it is impossible that she trains for four months and gets to this level.”
Barman also revealed that she had protested against Nandini Agasara, the bronze medal winner, in the past.
She expressed surprise at seeing Nandini’s name on the Asian Games contingent list and called on authorities to address the situation, emphasizing the need for medical verification.
“Sheer Hard Work and Dedication”
Nandini Agasara, the athlete at the center of the controversy, strongly denied the allegations.
She expressed disbelief at the timing of Barman’s accusations, stating, “It’s only when I won the bronze because of my sheer hard work and dedication that she came up with this transgender thing.” She emphasized her intention to discuss the matter with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and challenged Barman to provide proof of her claims.
“I know what I am. Ask her to show proof. I will also show that I have won the medal for India. I only want to do well for the country,” Nandini stated.
Rules Prohibiting Transgender Women
This controversy has highlighted the broader debate surrounding transgender athletes in sports.
World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field, recently implemented rules prohibiting transgender women who began transitioning after puberty from competing in women’s events, aiming to balance fairness and inclusivity.
Despite the ongoing dispute, India has celebrated Nandini Agasara’s victory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised her on X as an “absolute champion” and commended her sporting spirit and excellence. He ended his post with, “Congrats to her and all the best for the endeavors ahead.”
Lashing Out in Frustration
Opinions on the matter varied among users of X (Twitter). Some questioned the validity of Swapna Barman’s claims, “Swapna was looking frustrated with her performance throughout the games, and now she is putting that out on her fellow Indian. Shame Swapna.”
Another user critiqued how he saw Barman’s actions, “There is a difference between completely a Trans woman and having higher level of testosterone. I am sure this is verified much before an athlete is allowed to take part. Swapna crying foul after the event is nothing but lack of sportsmanship and jealousy.”
As the sporting world continues to grapple with the evolving landscape of transgender athletes in competition, this incident at the 2023 Asian Games serves as a stark reminder of the complexities surrounding this debate.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Drazen Zigic