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BBC apologises for broadcasting discussion on 'curing' Clare Balding of being gay

The programme also asked guests to debate whether Balding should present horse racing shows topless

The BBC has apologised unreservedly after a contestant on a radio panel show was asked to argue the proposition that: 'Give me 20 minutes with her and I'm pretty sure I could turn around Clare Balding'.

Balding, 42, is a sports presenter on Channel 4 and the BBC and has been in a civil partnership with Alice Arnold, the former Radio 4 newsreader, for seven years.

As part of a round on the BBC Radio 5 Live show 'Fighting Talk', Colin Murray, the show's presenter, asked a contestant to argue that they could 'cure' the award-winning sports commentator of lesbianism.

The programme also asked guests to debate whether Balding should present horse racing shows topless.

The controversial broadcast came during the final segment of the show in which guests are asked to 'defend the indefensible' and argue a difficult-to-support case.

Comedian Bob Mills responded to the challenge by saying that Balding was a "horse woman", who "appreciates power between her thighs", before adding: "And we all know, there is no woman that can't be cured."

A version of the programme broadcast later in the evening asked the guests to debate whether or not the presenter, considered a national treasure by many, should host racing shows topless.

Balding's work presenting at the London Olympics won her a special award from Bafta this year. She has so far made no comment on the broadcast.

A spokesman for the BBC said today: “The comments were made during a round called ‘Defend the Indefensible’, which asks panelists to comment on topics which, by their very nature, are blatantly indefensible.”

“However, we would like to apologise unreservedly to anyone who was offended by the live broadcast.”