Paula Radcliffe speaks out on the effect of the menstrual cycle on performance

Getty Images

Paula Radcliffe has said that sport hasn't learnt to deal with elite athletes’ periods,

"I would argue it's a lack of learning," Radcliffe told BBC Sport. "Too often in sport, doctors are men and they don't understand."

This response has come after periods have been labeled the ‘last taboo’ in sport by former British women’s tennis number one, Annabel Croft in The Guardian. For the first time in sporting history, periods were referenced as the cause of poor performance by tennis player Heather Watson. Following her exit from the Australian Open she said, “I think it’s just one of these things that I have, girl things.”

What is most startling about this incident is that it has never been discussed in such a public forum before.

In response to this, Radcliffe has called for more studies to be carried out on the impact of the menstrual cycle on sporting performance. She references her own experience and that of others such as Jo Pavey who have tried to do things to control their periods throughout their careers.

She reports on a drug called norethisterone, which delays periods. The drug was prescribed to British athlete Jessica Judd during the 2013 World Championships. But Radcliffe warns that this actually made things ‘100 times worse’ 

Criticising British Athletics for their management of this issue she explained that despite it not working on her and others, they had given it to Judd. "They tried it because that's what medical science was saying you should do in that situation, but they knew that it hadn't worked because athletes had told them 'I feel worse'.

Opening this conversation can only be a positive step in the awareness of this issue and hopefully the first steps to breaking the taboo.