A six-time world champion weightlifter was prevented from boarding an airliner because airport staff insisted on making her prove she was a woman.
Powerlifting champion Anna Turaeva says staff from Russian airline Utair asked intrusive, intimate questions about her sexual preferences in front of other passengers in St. Petersburg before the flight to her home province of Krasnodar in southern Russia.
“At the checkpoint, they refused to let me pass through saying that it was written in my passport that I am a woman,” she wrote on Instagram.
Anna’s muscular physique essential for her sport and and the cropped hair is, she says, just practical.
She had a long ponytail almost to her waist at school, but “now with my appearance, my muscles,” Anna says, “it will look ridiculous if I wear a dress or heels.”
But she managed to keep her temper despite the questioning: “It was humiliating. I was reprimanded like a child in front of people in the queue. They wanted to know which role I play in life and between the sheets,” she said.
“The whole queue was watching this anarchy, and I felt as helpless as possible in this situation. I was trying to prove that I am indeed a woman,” she added.
Anna, 42, explains that despite her spectacular power-lifting prowess she was a weak and sickly child.
“My mom always supported me, even when I didn’t look like all the other girls,” she says. “It was a miracle for her that I stayed alive at all, as from the age of six to 15 I saw nothing but hospitals.”
She says she’s “quite often” taken for a man by strangers but, she told Russian sports blog Klubfedotova, “when people get to know me better, they treat me in a completely different way, we communicate in a completely different way.”
“They see me [as] probably more feminine than masculine,” she added.
Anna was eventually allowed onto the plane and Utair has apologised for the incident.
A company spokesperson said: “Such service is unacceptable. We will definitely check the actions of the airport employees who worked on your flight, and we will sort out the situation.”