A controversy erupted at this year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, as 26-year-old athlete Swapna Barman, who had previously won gold at the 2018 Asian Games, accused a fellow Indian athlete, Nandini Agasara, of being transgender. Barman’s allegations came after she narrowly missed out on a podium position in the women’s heptathlon, securing fourth place with 5708 points, just four points behind Agasara’s bronze-winning score of 5712.
In a now-deleted social media post, Barman claimed that her bronze medal had been lost to a transgender woman and called for support in her quest to have the medal returned. While the post did not directly name Agasara, it led to widespread speculation.
“I have lost my Asian Games bronze medal to transgender women at the 19th Asian Games held in Hangzhou,China. I want my medal back as it is against the rules of our athletics. Help me and support me please. #protestforfairplay.”
“I know what I am. Ask her to show proof. I will also show that I have won the medal for India. I only want to do well for the country. Now we have won, so people have started talking about it. I will take up this issue with AFI for sure. I wanted to enjoy the moment of winning the medal but going back to India as my mother is not well,” she told India Today.
Agasara swiftly responded to the allegations in an interview with India Today, asserting her identity as a woman and expressing her intention to take up the issue with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). She urged Barman to provide proof of her accusations.
‘I know what I am. Ask her to show proof. I will also show that I have won the medal for India. I only want to do well for the country.
‘Now we have won, so people have started talking about it. I will take up this issue with AFI for sure. I wanted to enjoy the moment of winning the medal but going back to India as my mother is not well.’
Despite the controversy, Agasara’s bronze medal win was celebrated by prominent figures, including India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who praised her as an “absolute champion” and commended her sporting spirit.
Agasara, at just 20 years old, has already made a mark in international athletics, with this bronze medal being her second international achievement. She previously secured a silver medal in the 100m hurdles at the World Athletics U20 Championships in 2022 and has also won multiple national medals in India.
This controversy is part of a broader global debate on transgender athletes’ participation in sports. Various governing bodies have implemented rules restricting transgender women from competing in female categories to ensure fairness and the integrity of competition. World Athletics, for instance, made this decision to protect the female category and address concerns about potential advantages retained by transgender women.