New Book ‘Unfair Play: The Battle For Women’s Sport’ is Released

Sharron Davies

New Book ‘Unfair Play: The Battle For Women’s Sport’ is Released

“This book is dedicated to my family, who’ve had to put up with my crusade for justice these last few years.

“It’s also for the wonderful men and women who have taken on the abuse and fought alongside me for fair play, safety and the right for females to have equal opportunities in sport.

“Sport is something I am forever grateful for.

“It has shaped my life.”

So reads Sharron Davies’ dedication in ‘Unfair Play: The Battle For Women’s Sport,’ which was co-written with Craig Lord, a luminary in the swimming world and award-winning journalist.

A press release states:

“On the face of it, women’s sport is on the rise, garnering more attention and grassroots involvement than ever before.

“However, in ‘Unfair Play: The Battle For Women’s Sport,’ British Olympian Sharron Davies and sports journalist Craig Lord show that in many areas progress is stalling or even falling back.”

Davies was the victim of the East German state-sponsored doping programme, finishing second in the 400IM at the 1980 Olympics.

Unfair Play

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More than 10 seconds ahead of her that day in Moscow was Petra Schneider who subsequently admitted to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

More than 42 years have elapsed since then but the Briton has never received justice.

So, too, Shirley Babashoff, who on countless occasions was beaten to the gold medal at Olympics and World Championships by the likes of Kornelia Ender and Petra Thumer.

When the American spoke out about her suspicions, she was accused of being a sore loser and nicknamed “Surly Shirley.”

After communism fell in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Babashoff’s suspicions were confirmed, but by then the damage was done.

And no one in authority had listened to the grievances of the women who were so affected, the ramifications of which went far beyond those meets in which what should have been gold was silver and bronze and in some cases, no medal at all.

For some time now, Davies has been fighting another battle – this time against the inclusion of transgender women in women’s sporting categories.

Lia Thomas is the most high-profile transgender athlete in swimming with World Aquatics – then FINAruling last year that transgender athletes cannot compete in the women’s category if they have been through any part of male puberty. Thomas formerly competed as a member of the University of Pennsylvania men’s team, but later won an NCAA title while racing as a member of the Penn women’s program.

Davies has found herself vilified and more while losing lucrative work and contracts.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar describes Davies as someone who has led the way in the fight to keep women’s sport for biological women.

The three-time Olympic champion said:

“Sharron Davies was way out ahead of the sports world, warning everyone of an impending crisis to girls’ and women’s sport.

“She and I know the bitter taste of unfairness: we both competed against doped-up East German swimmers.

“History is repeating itself, this time by men who identify as women.

“Sharron and Craig tackle this story with precision and fairness.”

The book – which is almost 300 pages long – stretches back to the days when the founding father of the Olympic Games told women their only role in sport was that of “crowning the winner with garlands.”

It also charts:

  • How systematic cheating in women’s sports began with the doping of East German swimmers in the 1970s and 1980s resulting in Davies missing out on gold in Moscow , generations of women being denied their rightful rewards and opportunities and long-term damage to health for many East German women.
  • The response of the IOC.
  • The science the rules and guidelines have been based on.
  • Why Michael Phelps and his natural advantages and astonishing armspan can’t be used as a reason to allow men into women’s sports.
  • How women’s sport still isn’t getting the attention it deserves.
  • How sporting bodies are changing their rules.
  • Lia Thomas.
  • Why Davies believes athletes need a union and her views on managing trans inclusion in sport.
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11 months ago

An important read – with a clear message/warning to all!

11 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

What is the clear message and warning, according to you?

Gail M Dummer
Gail M Dummer
10 months ago
Reply to  Seth

My take. Permitted testosterone levels by some organizations for transwomen far exceed levels allowed by WADA for biological women, and far exceed levels detected in steroid-aided East German women in the 1970s and 1980s. Performance advantages like body size, strength, and speed do not decline to typical levels of biological females even after lengthy transition. Not so much in swimming, but definitely in other sports, those performance advantages put biological females at greater risk of injury. I appreciated that Davies and Lord included an appendix with reference citations to the scientific studies discussed in the book. For the record, Davies and Lord do support participation by transwomen in sports, but in an open or trans category, not against biological females.

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