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A stoush has broken out between swimming great Ian Thorpe and high-profile critic of trans activism Katherine Deves over whether transgender women should be allowed to compete in the pool at international level.

Ms Deves took aim at Thorpe for saying international swimming body FINA had ‘got it wrong’ by banning trans athletes and that it was a ‘complicated issue’.

Addressing a tweet directly to Thorpe on Thursday, Ms Deves wrote the issue ‘was not complicated’.

Former Liberal candidate Katherine Deves has taken swimming great Ian Thorpe to task over his criticism of the international competitive ban on trans swimmers

Former Liberal candidate Katherine Deves has taken swimming great Ian Thorpe to task over his criticism of the international competitive ban on trans swimmers

Ms Deves said that including trans athletes in female sport would always be unfair

Ms Deves said that including trans athletes in female sport would always be unfair

‘Women & girls have the right to a female only sports competition,’ she wrote.

‘Only complicated if you think the inclusion of males is priority. CANNOT have both fair competition & inclusion, you have to pick one.

‘CANNOT have both fair competition & inclusion, you have to pick one.’ 

On Wednesday Thorpe stated he was against FINA’s position because he was ‘for fairness in sport, but I’m also for equality in sport. And in this instance, they’ve actually got it wrong.’ 

‘So when you run the numbers, someone who’s gone through the tough process and been able to transition to the sex that they determine for themselves is highly unlikely to ever be able to win an Olympic gold medal,’ Thorpe said.

Following the controversy over trans athlete Lia Thomas winning a major US college swimming title FINA moved to ban transgender competitors unless they had transitioned before 12, the age of puberty when testosterone is released in males.

The decision was welcomed by current Australian swimmers and Olympian gold medallists Cate Campbell and Emily Seebohm, who expressed concerns about the ‘fairness’ of competing against swimmers who had physiological male traits. 

Ms Deves argued that allowing trans athletes to compete after the age of male puberty, when testosterone is released, conferred them a distinct advantage that was equivalent to doping.

‘If Ian Thorpe had to compete against a fellow male who was doping, 8-10% performance advantage, he would not be an Olympian,’ Ms Deves wrote.

‘But women are expected to tolerate a male with a 10-12% performance advantage by virtue of his sex?

‘A man with suppressed testosterone is not a woman.’ 

The ban on transgender swimmers in international competition followed the controversy over Lia Thomas (pictured) winning a major US swimming title at the college level

The ban on transgender swimmers in international competition followed the controversy over Lia Thomas (pictured) winning a major US swimming title at the college level 

Thorpe, who after retiring from competitive swimming in 2012 came out as gay in a nationally televised 2014 interview, said the issue of trans athletes needs to be considered from a broader and welfare-based approach.

‘When it comes to the elite level, there needs to be a sensible conversation which includes endocrinologists, psychologists, physiologists – everyone that actually may have an opinion in this space,’ he said.  

Australia’s greatest Olympian gold medal winner, with five, also thought there was unjustifiable panic about trans children competing as their chosen gender. 

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‘If someone is complaining about someone who is trans when they happen to be 10 years of age, it is bizarre. I can almost promise you that child will not be competing at an adult stage,’ Thorpe said. 

Ms Deves said biological sex can never be changed, regardless of what gender people choose to identify as. 

‘No one can ‘determine’ their sex,’ she wrote addressing the remark to Thorpe. 

Olympic gold medallist Cate Campbell has said that she is uncomfortable with the idea of competing against trans swimmers

Olympic gold medallist Cate Campbell has said that she is uncomfortable with the idea of competing against trans swimmers

‘Sex is immutable, objective & observable, it is determined at conception & observed in utero or at birth, & then recorded.

‘And one man taking the place of a woman, is one too many. This is common sense – majority of Aussies agree.’

At the last federal election Ms Deves stood as the Liberal challenger to Teal Zali Steggall for the Sydney northern beaches seat of Warringah.

During the campaign she attracted headlines for wrongly stating gender assignment surgery is available for adolescents, when it is only allowed in Australia for those over the age of 18. 

She also controversially likened speaking out against trans-activism to opposing the Nazi Holocaust during WWII.

Ms Deves, who is a lawyer, lost her contest against Ms Steggall, with the Liberals suffering a six per cent swing against them. 

Daily Mail Australia has reached out to Thorpe for for comment.

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