It’s not often the Tour of the Gila, a somewhat obscure women’s cycling stage race in New Mexico, gets much coverage at all in the UK and across the globe, never mind the dozens upon dozens of headlines it’s generated this week. 

The widespread coverage, from the BBC to almost every national newspaper, is because of its winner; a 27-year-old American called Austin Killips. 

The reason Killips has attracted quite so much attention is because she’s trans, and so her win only served to, once again, reignite the argument about the legitimacy of transwomen competing in women’s sport. 

The positives and negatives of transwomen being permitted to compete in the female category in both elite and grassroots sport have been well-documented. 

There is, it seems, no consensus at all in the fairness versus safety and discrimination versus inclusivity arguments when it comes to which category trans women should compete in. 

But whatever the end point ultimately is for transwomen in sport, what’s becoming increasingly apparent is how inhospitable the environment is for female athletes to speak up about how they feel around this issue. 

Their views should, along with transwomen themselves, be the most important voices in this debate. 

There have been reams written and millions of words spoken about transwomen in women’s sport, but so few of these words are coming from current female athletes. 

Commentators, former athletes and onlookers alike have had, and continue to have, plenty to say on this issue but female athletes themselves? It’s far harder to find a sportswoman who’s willing to go on the record on what exactly she feels about transwomen in women’s sport. 

And this is a huge issue. 

There is an overwhelming belief from so many female athletes that speaking out about the trans issue, whatever side of the debate they’re on, just isn’t worth it. 

Express support for transwomen competing in women’s sport and you’re labelled a woman-hater and voice a view that transwomen should play sport outwith the women’s category and you’re branded transphobic. 

For the former athletes and commentators who’ve been subject to a deluge of abuse after voicing their views, they believe the backlash is worth it. 

But it’s hardly surprising that so many current athletes come to the opinion that it’s better to just keep quiet, for fear of losing sponsorship deals or being “cancelled” entirely. 

There are very few female athletes who are in a secure enough position financially to risk losing their support as a result of airing their potentially controversial, to one side or the other, views on trans athletes. 

Which is a significant problem. 

Whatever your views on the trans issue, and the spectrum is broad, the immediate focus must not only be on sporting organisations implementing rules they see fit but also, and perhaps even more pressingly, ensure there is an environment in which female athletes are able to give their opinion without fear of catastrophic consequences. 

Sport is, at its best, a safe place for everyone. 

The current climate suggests it is, at the moment anyway, a safe place for very few. 


And Another Thing... 

The now customary post-operation photo posted by athletes on their social media accounts rarely suggests things are going to plan. 

But Emma Raducanu’s update this week, which showed Britain’s newest tennis star lying in a hospital bed with her wrists heavily bandaged, might, counter-intuitively, be the best thing that’s happened to the 20-year-old all year. 

It goes without saying that Raducanu has had a tricky time of things since her incredible US Open title in late 2021. 

Just months after finishing her high school education, Raducanu won that grand slam in remarkable fashion but the months since have demonstrated quite how treacherous early-career success can be. 

After a run of bad, terrible, and occasionally decent results, Raducanu last month dropped out of the world’s top 100. 

So it’d be easy to assume her recent surgery, on both wrists as well as an ankle, has come at the worst possible time. 

In fact, this break, albeit enforced, is almost certainly what Raducanu needs. 

Loss after loss followed tournament withdrawal after tournament withdrawal and she appeared to be in a spiral that, as many elite athletes know, is so difficult to get out of. 

Raducanu needs a confidence boost. But in searching for the confidence boost in tournament after tournament, week after week goes by with a win, especially a good win, becoming harder to come by. 

Almost always, some time away is what’s required, but a voluntary break during a disappointing spell invariably feels like giving up. 

So, for Raducanu, these coming months of her sitting on the sidelines – she will almost certainly miss the remaining three grand slams of the year – is likely to be a significant blessing in disguise. 

Professional sport is a tough environment even when things are going well. 

If they’re going badly, as has been the case for Raducanu for the past year, the answer is almost never to immerse yourself deeper in it but rather take yourself entirely away from the pressure cooker that is playing in the public and media’s gaze week in, week out. 

For the next few months, we’ll likely see or hear very little from Raducanu. 

It’ll give her the chance to return with a clean slate, something that would have been impossible had she continued to play on the tour. 

And then we’ll have to see if it’s been enough for her to rediscover the form that brought her that grand slam title a year and a half ago.