LONDON — Olivia Breen, a double Paralympic world champion for the United Kingdom, said she was stunned after a sporting official said her sprint briefs were “too short and inappropriate” at a recent competition.
The 24-year-old, who won a bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics, said she has been wearing the same style of shorts for almost a decade and that up until now, it had never been an issue. Breen won a gold medal at the 2017 IPC World Championships in the T38 long jump and set a world record at the same competition in 2015 in the T35-38 100-meter sprint relay.
England Athletics, the governing body for running in the country, said it was investigating the matter as “a matter of urgency" and stressed that the wellbeing of athletes was its main priority.
“Everyone should feel comfortable to compete and participate in the sport,” the organization said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post.
Breen said Sunday on Twitter that while she was “very grateful” for those who officiate sporting events and recognizes the need for regulations on competition attire, "women should not be made to feel self conscious about what they are wearing when competing.”
Some on Twitter echoed Breen’s point that male athletes who don similar style shorts are not as likely to face the same scrutiny that women may receive.
“We should be celebrating women’s sporting excellence, not limiting them to the size of their knickers,” read one tweet.
“Another sad and totally unnecessary example of female athletes having their bodies policed,” wrote Fiona Tomas, a sporting reporter for The Daily Telegraph.
Breen thanked fans for their support on Monday, and shared an image of the outfit she had been wearing when she was criticized over the weekend.
Thank you everyone for all your lovely supportive messages and I’m sorry to hear that it has happened to so many other people. Some people have asked what I was competing in yesterday so here is a picture.— oliviabreen (@BreenOlivia) July 19, 2021
I don’t think it is “ objectionable” within the UKA regulations pic.twitter.com/rnTPoTxGAz
Breen told Sky News on Tuesday that she was approached by an official shortly after she had finished participating in a long jump competition in Bedfordshire, England.
“Your briefs are too revealing. I think you should consider buying a pair of shorts,” the official said, according to Breen.
Breen told Sky that athletes often opt for clothing that “is as light as possible” especially in the summer months. On Sunday, England recorded its hottest day of the year so far with temperatures climbing to 31.6 degrees Celsius, or 88.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Breen, who has cerebral palsy and is hearing impaired, has embraced her disability “as a positive element of her personality,” according to her official website.
This is just the latest shorts-related controversy ahead of the Olympics. Norway’s handball players were fined $1,700 for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms to compete in a match against Spain at the European Beach Handball Championships on Sunday.
A statement from The European Handball Federation published Monday said it “dealt with a case of improper clothing.”