Team GB para-athlete Olivia Breen has said she was left “disgusted” after an England Athletics official told her that her sprint uniform was “inappropriate” and “too revealing” at the England Championships on Sunday.
Double world champion Breen, who has Cerebral palsy, is set to compete in the T38 Long Jump at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games next month.
Breen was wearing the same style competition briefs that she has worn for the duration of her nine-year career.
Breen told ESPN: “I just finished my last long jump competition before [Paralympic] selection. This official came up to me and said to me: ‘Can I speak to you?’ And she just said ‘I think your briefs are too revealing. I think you should consider buying some shorts.’
“I was just… I am very expressive and I didn’t know what to say. So my response was: ‘Are you joking?’
“And she was just like: ‘No, I think you should consider buying a pair of shorts.”
“The more I have thought about it, I was just like: ‘No, that is so wrong.’ I was annoyed from the start. I was really cross.
“I felt disgusted. I was just taken by surprise and gobsmacked. This is so wrong. We’re not living in the 18th century. Life has moved on. As an athlete, personally, I have never experienced that before.”
Breen, a bronze medallist at London 2012 in the women’s 4x100m relay T35-T38, has said she has received a host of messages from young female athletes who say they have experienced similar comments.
“The messages all said ‘I really appreciate you speaking out, and it’s happened to me. It’s great that you’re using your voice and we really appreciate it,’ Breen added.
“I had no idea this has happened to so many athletes and so many young girls. Some people said it has left them crying. Some people even got disqualified as well. This needs to change!”
An England Athletics spokesperson told ESPN: “We are aware of the post and will be investigating as a matter of urgency. The well-being of all participants in athletics is of the utmost importance and everyone should feel comfortable to compete and participate in the sport.”
Breen has called for all officials to be more mindful of their comments toward athletes.
“What I would like to happen is that they [officials] never make any [personal] comments to any females or males. Just accept what we’re wearing. If we’re not sticking to the rules, that’s fine. But if we’re wearing the ruled outfit, don’t say anything to us about it.
“I think England Athletics and officials need to be educated on what they can and can’t say to us.
“I didn’t realise how much of a response I would get and how my coverage I would get. I’m really glad I spoke out about it because it’s disgusting and it needs to change. They [officials] can’t do that to us.”