On Sunday at the English Championships, two-time Paralympic world champion Olivia Breen was wearing her usual track-and-field attire when a volunteer official called the outfit “too short and inappropriate.” Now, she has told the extended side of her story.
Breen had just finished her last long jump competition when the official pulled her aside. She told Breen that her outfit was ‘”too revealing” and that she should “consider buying some shorts.” She was shocked beyond belief.
“I was just … I am very expressive, and I didn’t know what to say. So my response was: ‘Are you joking?’” Breen told ESPN.
“I felt disgusted. I was just taken by surprise and gobsmacked,” she said. “This is so wrong. We’re not living in the 18th century. Life has moved on. As an athlete, personally, I have never experienced that before.”
The 24-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, was wearing the same style of briefs that she has worn for her entire nine-year career. She wants to see a change in the strict attire rules that are enforced. She also wishes that England officials are “educated on what (they) can and can’t say” to their athletes.
“What I would like to happen is that [officials] never make any [personal] comments to any females or males,” Breen said. “Just accept what we’re wearing. If we’re not sticking to the rules, that’s fine. But if we’re wearing the ruled outfit, don’t say anything to us about it.”
After the incident, Breen released a statement on her Twitter. She expressed disappointment in the official. The post caught the eye of England Athletics.
“We are aware of the post and will be investigating as a matter of urgency,” the spokesperson said. “The well-being of all participants in athletics is of the utmost importance and everyone should feel comfortable to compete and participate in the sport.”
Breen is set to compete in the T38 long jump at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games next month. In the 2012 London Paralympics, Breen was able to secure a bronze medal in the women’s 4x100m relay T35-T38. This year, she has her eyes set on gold.