Trans-identified male runner takes 3rd place in women's Para World Championships

"It’s shocking to see that women’s opportunities to a medal were taken..."

A 49-year-old trans-identifying male won the bronze in the 400-meter women's race at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in Paris. 

Valentina Petrillo, an Italian trans-identifying male, has won several international women's track and field titles since attempting to transition and starting estrogen in 2019. At 49 years old, Petrillo is 18 years older than anyone else in the race and continues to dominate his competition. 

Petrillo has competed in para-athletics competition categories due to heavy vision impairment. Women in the race and Petrillo had to compete following guides who had bright yellow vests on in order to stay on the course of the track. 

The World Para Athletics Championship guidance on the participation of athletes in any competition states that "an athlete shall be eligible to compete in women’s competition if she is recognized as female by law." However, the guidance suggests that cases of transgender people will be "dealt in accordance to accordance with the [International Olympic Committee’s] transgender guidelines.”

The Olympic Committee's guidelines are that "athletes are not excluded solely on the basis of their transgender identity or sex variations." 

However, in 2021 Petrillo was not selected to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo even after qualifying for a spot. The Italian government made a last-minute decision at the time to bar him from competing against other women. 

Peter Eriksson, a former head coach for the Canadian Olympic team, told Reduxx in a report, "It’s shocking to see that women’s opportunities to a medal were taken by a cheating 49-year-old male."

"The International Paralympic Committee is diminishing the rights of fairness in women’s sport by allowing transgender athletes at their events," he continued. 

Petrillo has also had run-ins with women's rights groups. Leading up to a 200-meter race in March of this year for the Italian Indoor Masters Championship, a group called RadFem Italia pushed back on the notion of him competing. 

The group wrote, after finding out Petrillo would not use the locker room, "if you recognise that Petrillo's body is male before and after the competition, it is not clear why it should be female during the competition."

Petrillo retaliated at the time, comparing the criticism from RadFem Italia to Nazism, claiming his detractors are “on the same level as Hitler.” 
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