Olivia Breen, a two-time Great Britain Paralympian, stated that she was left “speechless” when an official claimed that her sprinting briefs were “too short and inappropriate.”
An official approached the 24-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, after the long jump event at the English Championships in Bedford.
At the time, Breen, who competes as a sprinter and in the long jump, was in Adidas competition briefs which she’s worn for “many years,” questioned if male athlete would have been subjected to the same comments.
Breen posted on her Instagram page: “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. 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.”
“I have been wearing the same sprint style briefs for many years and they are specifically designed for competing in…It made me question whether a male competitor would be similarly criticized,” she wrote. “I hope no other female athletes had similar issues. I recognize 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.”
According to the UK Athletics website, “In all events competitors must wear at least vest and shorts (or equivalent clothing) which are clean and so designed and worn as not to be objectionable, even if wet.”
The rules don’t provide further details regarding dimensions, lengths or clothing material.
Breen told the Guardian that she was planning to make an official complaint to UK Athletics.
Amelia Strickler, British shot putter, supported Breen, writing: “Female athletes shouldn’t be subjected to such criticism when there is already so much pressure on women to be ‘perfect.’ We are there to compete. You don’t like the outfits? Don’t officiate. We don’t need officials adding unnecessary stress in those moments.”
A spokesperson for England Athletics said: “We are aware of the post and will be investigating as a matter of urgency. The wellbeing of all participants in athletics is of the utmost importance and everyone should feel comfortable to compete and participate in the sport.”
A spokesperson for Adidas, the company sponsoring Breen, said: “Olivia is an inspiration on and off the track. It’s disappointing to see her judged on anything but her athletic performance. We fully endorse her comments and hope they are taken onboard by the event organizers.”