She said she was going public about the incident to stop it happening to others
Britain’s two-time Paralympic world champion Olivia Breen says she was left “speechless” and “disappointed” after a female official told her that her sprint briefs were “too short and inappropriate”.
The athlete wrote on Twitter that the incident happened just after she finished the long jump competition event at the English Championships in Bedford on Sunday.
Breen, who has cerebral palsy and will be competing for Britain at the Tokyo Paralympics next month, said she felt disappointed and questioned if male sportsmen would be similarly criticised for their attire.
“I am always grateful for the incredible volunteers who officiate at athletics events. They do an amazing job and make it possible for us to compete,” she said in the tweet.
“However, tonight I feel disappointed because just as I finished my long jump competition one of the female officials felt it necessary to inform me that my sprint briefs were too short and inappropriate. I was left speechless.”
She said she has been wearing the same sprint style briefs for nine years and they are specifically designed for such competitions.
“I recognise that there needs to be regulations and guidelines in relation to competition kit but women should not be made to feel self-conscious about what they are wearing when competing but should feel comfortable and at ease.”
Breen, who competes in sprint and long jump events and won bronze at the London 2012 Paralympics, told news outlets that she is planning to file an official complaint and England Athletics have been in touch with her.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme: “We want to be as light as possible when we’re competing, not having to feel heavy, and to feel comfortable. We should just wear what we’re entitled to wear.”
Breen said the woman told her what she was wearing was “very revealing” and she should consider “buying shorts”. “I didn’t know what to say, I was left speechless and my first thought process was ‘are you joking?’,” she added.
Following her statement, other female athletes rallied behind Breen and many shared their own stories online.
“I had a similar experience with a female official at BUCS indoors a few years back. As someone who struggles with body image and not fitting the ‘typical’ distance runner body type, being taken aside at the finish line was very humiliating,” a Twitter user said.
British Paralympic sprinter and long jumper Polly Maton said female athletes should wear what they want to regardless of the viewpoint of “the male gaze”.
“Female athletes should be able to wear what makes THEM feel comfortable to perform (and what sports manufacturers have designed for us, largely out of our control) regardless of what is deemed ‘improper’ as informed by the male gaze,” she said.
Breen in a subsequent tweet on Monday shared a picture of herself wearing the briefs that caused such apparent offence, repeating that she did not think the clothing was “objectionable.”