Fri, Nov 23, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Vaulter Buschbaum to retire to undergo hormone therapy

AFP , BERLIN

German athlete Yvonne Buschbaum takes a run-up during an indoor athletics meeting in Sindelfingen, Germany, on March 10, 2002.

PHOTO: AFP

Former European pole vault medalist Yvonne Buschbaum has announced her retirement from athletics to undergo hormone therapy and has hinted she will have a sex-change operation.

The 27-year-old, who won a bronze at the 2002 European Championships, says a persistent achilles tendon injury is part of the reason for her retirement, but she will soon start hormone treatment, which rules her out of competitive sport.

"My continuous injury misery has played a part in the decision, but my decision is essentially due to my mental imbalance," Buschbaum said on her Web site.

"For many years, I have had the feeling I am in the wrong body. Those who know me have seen a clear fault. I feel like a man and yet must live my life in the body of a woman. The years of discrepancy has left its tensions and has expressed itself in my injured Achilles' tendons," she said. "I would not like to be misjudged any longer. I am conscious of the fact that transsexuality is a difficult topic, but I don't want to be involved in a game of hide-and-seek with the truth. I appeal to the public's understanding, to respect my decision and not draw any wrong conclusions."

The German's personal best of 4.70m was achieved in 2003, a year after she picked up a bronze at the European Championships in Munich and a silver at the indoor tournament in Vienna.

She is ranked the second best German pole vaulter behind retired 2002 World Cup gold medalist Annika Becker.

Buschbaum also won a bronze at the 1998 European Championships in Budapest and was sixth at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

As she is set to undergo hormone treatment, she said she wants to come clean to avoid any doping allegations.

"I do not dope and with my forthcoming hormone treatment, my decision means that I have to be honest about what I am doing," she said. "The world of sport is too small for it to be a secret. And I wanted to be public about this so nobody is deceived or betrayed. From a biological point of view, the success I achieved so far has all been done naturally."

Transsexuality is not a common theme in sport.

One of the most famous cases was Austria's 1966 world downhill ski champion Erika Schinegger who under went a sex-change operation and later competed in the men's event as Erik.

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