PARIS, May 17 (Reuters) - Excluding trans athletes from competing is despicable and reason should prevail when deciding who is allowed to take part in women's events in high level sports, transgender woman and former Olympic champion Sandra Forgues said.
Forgues, who won a men's canoeing gold medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics as Wilfrid Forgues with Frank Adisson as well as five world titles, argues that most transgender women do not have any advantage over cisgender women.
"We have to act with reason, think how to safeguard the female categories because women's visibility is essential but without abusively discriminating people who are biologically or physically not stronger than women," Forgues, 53, told Reuters at the Paris 2024 headquarters on Wednesday on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
"Because finding yourself excluded from these (women's) categories is simply abject."
After retiring from canoeing at the top level in the early 2000s, Forgues came out as a transgender woman in 2016 and now plays handball at a low level and is a registered member of the kayaking French federation.
"I play women's handball, at the beginning I went there thinking I should be careful (with the other players) but I quickly realised I was getting destroyed," she said with a smile.
"It's a contact sport and compared to the women who are as tall as I am, and there are a lot in handball, I have less stability, they have lower centre of gravity and they are stronger than me playing handball."
Forgues said she empathised with Halba Diouf, the French sprinter whose dream of participating in the Paris Olympics was shattered when World Athletics (WA) banned transgender women from elite female competitions.
Diouf had been training hard to improve her 200 metres time in the hope of running on home soil at the 2024 Games, only to her ambitions dashed in March when governing body WA banned transgender women who have gone through male puberty from competing in women's events, citing a "need to protect the female category".
"I sympathise with these trans athletes who transitioned, finally got their head out of the water and finally started to live and suddenly they're behind ostracised and told you cannot be here, you're out because we don't love you," said Forgues.
"As long as a trans athlete doesn't win there is no problem, it's the day they win that they're saying it's cheating. We have to put reason ahead of passion."