Olivia Breen said the alleged incident "made [her] question whether a male competitor would be similarly criticized"

By Jen Juneau
July 20, 2021 10:23 AM
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olivia breen
Olivia Breen
| Credit: Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Olivia Breen is speaking out after she was allegedly told her competition sprint shorts "were too short and inappropriate" at the English Championships.

The 24-year-old Paralympian, who competes as a sprinter and long jumper, vented on Twitter Sunday about the incident that left her "speechless."

Acknowledging that while she is "always very grateful for the incredible volunteers who officiate at athletic events," as they "do an amazing job and make it possible for us to compete," Breen said she felt "disappointed because just as I finished my long jump competition at the English Championships, one of the female officials felt it necessary to inform me that my sprint briefs were too short and inappropriate."

"I was left speechless," she said.

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According to the Welsh athlete — who also posted a photo of her outfit on Instagram — she has "been wearing the same sprint style briefs for many years and they are specifically designed for competing in."

"I will hopefully be wearing them in Tokyo. It made me question whether a male competitor would be similarly criticized," she continued. "I hope no other female athletes had similar issues."

Breen concluded by saying she "recognize(s) that there needs to be regulations and guidelines in relation to competition [attire] but women should not be made to feel self-conscious about what they are wearing when competing but should feel comfortable and at ease."

Responding to her claims in a statement to The Guardian, 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."

olivia breen
Olivia Breen
| Credit: S Bardens - British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images

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In an interview with CNN, Breen said that the incident "just made me angry" and that if she had been a teenager, "it would make me burst into tears."

"They need to treat us with respect and not make us feel like rubbish," the athlete added of officials.

Set to compete at the upcoming Tokyo Paralympic Games, Breen, who has cerebral palsy, previously won a bronze medal at the 2012 Games in London. The competitor went on to clinch gold medals at the World Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Games in 2015, 2017 and 2018, respectively.

In related style headlines, the European Handball Federation (EHF) announced Monday that the Norwegian women's national beach handball team would be fined $1,770, or $170 a player, after athletes wore shorts instead of bikini bottoms in the bronze medal game against Spain the day prior.

Norwegian Women's handball team
Credit: Norwegian Handball Federation

The team's chosen attire for the European championships was "not according to the Athlete Uniform Regulations defined in the IHF Beach Handball Rules of the Game," the EHF said.

Firing back, beach handball player Katinka Haltvik told Norwegian outlet NRK that she and her teammates "have felt threatened by the regulations" and hope to spark change soon.

"I hope we get a breakthrough for this and that next summer we play in what we want," Haltvik said.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23rd and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning August 24th on NBC.