Do trans athletes have an advantage over their competitors? This question and the inclusion of trans people in sport has long been the focus of a sometimes emotional debate. Some sports associations are now revising their rules.
In the global debate about trans people in sport, some international sports federations are currently revising their rules. On Tuesday, the International Rugby League followed the example of the world swimming association Fina and excluded transgender athletes from international women’s competitions until further notice.
The world athletics association could also follow the new FINA rules, and the world football association is also revising its guidelines, as a FIFA spokesman confirmed to the German press agency on Tuesday. The International Cycling Federation had already updated its transgender admission rules with stricter testosterone limits the previous week.
At the heart of the debate is whether trans athletes have a physical advantage from their naturally higher levels of testosterone. The International Olympic Committee had placed the responsibility in this case in the hands of the professional associations.
After New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly trans woman to compete in the Olympics in Tokyo, there is a policy designed to prevent discrimination and emphasizes the right of all athletes to compete. There is no longer a blanket testosterone limit.
The fina on Sunday stipulated in its new rules for trans people that they can only participate in women’s swimming competitions if they have completed their gender reassignment by the age of twelve. There are also considerations of introducing a so-called “open” competition category, which critics see as more discrimination than inclusion.
World Athletics Federation President Sebastian Coe praised the Fina’s specifications and was open to rule changes. “We are seeing an international federation asserting its right to set rules, regulations and policies that are in the best interest of its sport,” Coe told the BBC.
“This is how it should be. We have always believed that biology trumps gender and we will continue to review our regulations accordingly. We will follow the science,” said the two-time 1,500-meter Olympic champion. Research will continue and evidence will be gathered that testosterone plays a key role in performance. At the end of the year, the World Association’s Executive Committee should discuss the issue.
The world football association is currently revising its regulations on gender equality in consultation with experts. In doing so, FIFA relies on the specifications of numerous interest groups for medicine, law, science/performance and human rights. The association also referred to the November 2021 IOC Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Gender Differences.
In rugby, one of the issues affected is the Women’s World Cup in England in November, where trans people are now excluded. The aim of the IRL is a “comprehensive inclusion policy”, by 2023 a final line for trans people should be defined.
The world cycling association UCI extended the transition period from twelve to 24 months and lowered the maximum permissible testosterone level from 5 to 2.5 nanomoles per liter of blood. This corresponds to “the maximum testosterone level found in 99.99 percent of the female population,” it said. The changes are intended to ensure the inclusion of the respective athletes as well as fairness, equal opportunities and safety.
The issue recently came back into focus when US swimmer Lia Thomas became the first trans woman to win the highest level of collegiate athletics in March. In addition, at the end of March, the UCI prohibited British Emily Bridges from starting at a women’s track cycling event in England.
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