Female Heptathlete Accuses Opponent of Being Transgender After Narrow Loss for Third Place Medal at Asian Games

An Indian heptathlete has sparked controversy after accusing her opponent at the 2023 Asian Games of being transgender and ineligible to participate in the women’s category. Swapna Barman, 26, was narrowly defeated for Bronze by Nandini Agasara, 20, and called attention to Agasara’s meteoric rise in women’s running.

The 2023 Asian Games are being held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8, with a total of 481 events being contested. The heptathlon took place on Sunday, with the competition comprising of seven events including 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, a 200m run, long jump, javelin throw, and a 800m run. Points were awarded at each event, and a final tally determined medal placement.

China’s Ninali Zheng took the gold in the competition with a total of 6149 points, while Uzbekistan’s Voronina Ekaterina received a silver medal for the 6056 points she was awarded.

But Barman was narrowly pushed to fourth after her competitor, Agasara, managed to obtain just 4 points more than her. Barman’s total score for the competition was 5708, while Agasara’s was 5712.

Barman is a well-known elite athlete in India and has collected multiple gold medals over the course of her career. However, in a now-deleted post on X (formerly Twitter) Barman alleged that she lost her bronze placement because her competitor was transgender.

“I have lost my Asian Games bronze medal to a transgender woman at the 19th Asian Games held in Hangzhou, China,” Barman posted, not specifically mentioning Agasara but allowing people to deduce who she was referring to based on the medal placing. “I want my medal back as it is against the rules of our Athletics. Help me and support me please. #protestforfairplay.”

While she has now deleted the post, Barman has come forward to speak with Indian media and has promised to “expose everyone” if the purported injustice is not rectified.

“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 told The Bridge. “Transgender athletes, who have testosterone levels above 2.5nmol, cannot compete in events over 200 meters.”

Barman also noted that improvements in Agasara’s performance in the heptathlon have been unusually quick, and that Agasara has managed to achieve progress unmatched by female counterparts.

“No girl can come up in heptathlon so fast. I have trained for 13 years in this, it is impossible that [Agasara] trains for four months and gets to this level,” Barman said.

Responding to the allegations in the Times of India, Agasara placed the burden of proof on Barman and stated “I know what I am,” though not specifying anything about biological sex.

“I will also show that I have won the medal for India. I only want to do well for the country. Now we have won, so people have started talking about it. I will take up this issue with the [Athletics Federation of India] for sure.”

In a further statement, the bronze medallist argued that the “timing” of Barman’s allegations was suspicious.

“Why didn’t she make the accusations earlier? It’s only when I won the bronze because of my sheer hard work and dedication that she came up with this transgender thing. This is so unfair,” Agasara added.

However, Barman clarified that she had previously made complaints about Agasara that were ignored.

“I was surprised to see [Agasara’s] name in the Asian Games list. Federation officials are asking me to protest again, they are saying that they are not doctors [and] only doctors can verify. They are asking me to go to NADA, WADA. I ask for help with folded hands,” Barman said.

Curiously, Barman also noted that Agasara reportedly “fled” the Athletic Village after officials debated issuing a medical test to determine biological sex.

“We were supposed to leave Hangzhou on the 6th of October. [Agasara] has fled after my complaint, saying [a relative] is sick, because [Agasara] knew there would be a test. Who got [Agasara] the tickets?”

While no concrete information has been released on Agasara’s biological sex, some Indian sports commentators have speculated that Agasara has a Disorder of Sexual Development (DSD) similar to that of South African athlete Caster Semenya.

Semenya has been the subject of much controversy dating back to 2009 when he first began participating in elite women’s sport. Semenya’s rapid improvements in performance initially triggered suspicions of drug use, and World Athletics (then called IAAF) was internationally denounced for requesting Semenya take a test to ascertain his biological sex.

Most women, including elite female athletes, have natural testosterone levels of 0.12 to 1.79 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L), but Semenya was found to have male gonads producing a normal level of testosterone for a male. In 2011, Semenya was measured as having 15.6 and 29.3 nmol/L. Years later, a decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport revealed that Semenya has a genetic disorder where the normal male sexual development fails in utero, resulting in external genitals that appear to be a vagina at birth, but is in fact an underdeveloped penis.

Athletes with DSDs similar to Semenya’s were once actively sought out by national coaches because of their tremendous “natural” advantage.

The issue of men identifying into women’s sporting categories has triggered a heated international debate which has resulted in public scrutiny of policies that prioritize a self-declared gender identity over biological sex. Last month, in a shift from recent years, sporting authority World Athletics president Sebastian Coe banned trans-identifying male athletes who have undergone a male puberty from competing against women.


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Reduxx is your stop for pro-woman, pro-child safeguarding news and opinion that goes outside the mainstream narratives.
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