The legendary tennis player, who came out as a lesbian in 1981, faced criticism after saying she would “not be happy” to compete against a transgender woman, claiming they would have “unfair” physical advantages.
“I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair,” Navratilova wrote in The Sunday Times.
“To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires.
“It’s insane and it’s cheating.”
In a new blog post, Navratilova said she was sorry for causing offence by the use of the word “cheat”, but stood by her concerns about transgender athletes in competitive sport.
“I know that my use of the word ‘cheat’ caused particular offence among the transgender community. I’m sorry for that because I certainly was not suggesting that transgender athletes in general are cheats,” Navratilova wrote.
“I know I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think there is a definitive answer here. That is why I want a debate, a conversation that includes everyone and is based, as I have said, not on feeling or emotion but science, objectivity and the best interests of women’s sport as a whole.
“Needless to say, I have always and will always be a champion of democracy, equal rights, human rights and full protection under the law for everyone.
“When I talk about sports and rules that must be fair, I am not trying to exclude trans people from living a full, healthy life.
“And I am certainly not advocating violence against trans people, as has been suggested. All I am trying to do is to make sure girls and women who were born female are competing on as level a playing field as possible within their sport.”
Navratilova’s apology comes after former Olympian Sharron Davies MBE was accused of “fuelling hate” after saying that transgender women should not be allowed to compete in female sport.
“I have nothing against anyone who wishes 2be transgender [sic]”, Davies wrote on Twitter over the weekend.
“However I believe there is a fundamental difference between the binary sex u r born with & the gender u may identify as.
“To protect women’s sport those with a male sex advantage should not be able 2compete in women’s sport.”
In response to Navratilova’s original comments, a spokesperson for the Stonewall charity said: “Sport should be welcoming to everyone, including trans people.
"We need clubs and governing bodies, as the experts, to consider how their sports’ individual policies can work to be as inclusive as possible, and what advice and guidance they’re giving to ensure all people, including trans people, can take part in sport."
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