A record-setting trans athlete who won a female 1,500m race in Canada this week has announced she will ‘step away’ from competitive running after a backlash to the victory.
Tiffany Newell, 50, insisted it was fair for her to compete against biological women but said she will retire indefinitely because of the controversy.
She also likened efforts to ban trans women from female events to blocking people because of their race.
Newell, who transitioned in 2017, placed first in the W50 1,500m, which is open to women aged 50 to 54, at the Canadian Masters Indoor Championships in Toronto last weekend. Last year, she set a new Canadian record in the 5,000m in the women’s 45-49 age category with a time of 18:02:30.
Announcing her decision to step down, Newell said: ‘I have decided to take a step away from competition for an indefinite amount of time. I do not know how long it will be but the last thing I want to be is in the center of controversy and feeling of being alienated and/or minoritized.’
Tiffany Newell, 50, placed first in the W50 1,500m, which is open to women aged 50 to 54, at the Canadian Masters Indoor Championships in Toronto last weekend (pictured)
Newell (left) has also set records in Canada since she transitioned in 2017. Critics says trans women have an unfair advantage, but Newell disagrees
In a lengthy Facebook post, she said the ongoing scrutiny around her competing in women’s events had take a ‘huge toll mentally and physically’.
Newell recent victory came at the 12th Canadian Masters Indoor Championships. She placed first against one other woman with a time of 05:07.611. The other competitor in the W50 category, Catherin Weber, finished with a time of 06:19.358.
Weber, a friend of Newell’s, has since urged her not to quit competing.
She responded to the Facebook post: ‘I don’t blame you for wanting to back away. But as the other runner… please come back.’
Newell also disputed the view that trans women have an advantage in female competitions because of the higher testosterone levels they experience before transitioning. Studies have shown that the advantage is maintained even after hormone suppression treatment.
‘We cannot disagree that testosterone has been scientifically proven to be beneficial in sport,’ Newell said.
‘However, I believe that based on test results and logical sense that this could be more applicable to young to middle aged athletes that undertake gender transition, male to female, where they are in the peak of their puberty.’
She said ‘as males age their testosterone levels gradually lower’ but added she believes ‘we are generations away from understanding this completely scientifically’.
Likening the situation to blocking people based on race, she said: ‘In regards to anatomical (and physiological advantages or disadvantages), I completely disagree with this argument. Let’s take a step back in time…and let’s revisit the history of ethnicity and participation in sport.
‘Some of these people were not allowed to participate in sport. Why? One debate could be – protection of those already allowed to compete vs the other ethnicity groups who wanted to compete.’
Last year, Newell set a new Canadian record in the 5,000m in the women’s 45-49 age category with a time of 18:02:30. Canadian Masters Athletics ratified the time as a record under the World Athletics policy for trans athletes.
Tiffany Newell (left) has won several events – and scooped some records – since she transitioned in 2017
Her success at the recent Canadian Masters Indoor Championships was highlighted by the International Consortium on Female Sport, a campaign group which lobbies for protected categories in sport for biological women
The policy states the athlete must provide a signed declaration that confirms their gender identity and also demonstrate that the concentration of testosterone in their blood serum has been less than 5 nanomoles per liter continuously for a period of at least 12 months.
Some critics have suggested an open category to run alongside those for biological men and women, but Newell has previously said she doesn’t ‘feel comfortable racing against men’.
Newell’s success in her latest event was highlighted by the International Consortium on Female Sport, a campaign group which lobbies for protected categories in sport for biological women.
The ICFS pointed out that Newell’s 1,500m time was logged in the World Masters Rankings as the current number one for a women in the W50 category in 2023. No other times have yet been entered on the WMR website in that category this year.
The ICFS asked World Athletics and World Masters Athletics why it is not ‘protecting the integrity of the female category’ and claimed Newell’s entry was ‘blatant sex-discrimination’.
Trans swimmer Lia Thomas is a biological male & has caused controversy in NCAA Swimming
Former NFL star Marcellus Wiley recently spoke against transgender athletes in women’s sports
Supporters of the ICFS’s position said the competition was ‘wrong and unfair’.
The participation of trans women in women’s competitions has become the subject of fierce debate in recent years, prompting many current and former professional athletes to take a stand in the debate.
Former NFL star Marcellus Wiley said earlier this month ‘it’s not right’ for transgender females to compete against biological women in sporting events.
The former FS1 personality highlighted how athletes such as swimmer Lia Thomas, one of the most high-profile trans athletes, have established themselves as top competitors in women’s categories.
A Pro Bowl defensive-end in 2001, Wiley prefaced he has ‘no issue with transgender people’ but did take umbrage at them participating in female sports.
Retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova recently trans athletes ‘cheats’. Former Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner, who competed as a man at the 1976 Olympics before she transitioned, said Thomas has ‘a tremendous advantage over girls’ she competes against.
What is World Athletics’ policy on trans women competing?
World Athletics, the international governing body, published its 19-page guidance on the eligibility of transgender athletes in October 2019.
Trans women must meet the following criteria:
- Provide a written and signed declaration, in a form satisfactory to a Medical Manager, that her gender identity is female
- Demonstrate that the concentration of testosterone in her blood serum has been less than 5 nanomoles per liter continuously for a period of at least 12 months
- Keep her serum testosterone concentration below 5 nmol/L for so long as she wishes to maintain her eligibility to compete in the female category of competition