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Tipsheet

Rugby’s Governing Body Bans Transgender Women From Competing

Nigel French/PA via AP

The global governing body for rugby issued a statement this week banning biological male “transgender” women from playing in women’s international matches.

The statement from the International Rugby League (IRL) follows suit with the governing bodies of other sports that have recently banned transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports, including the International Swimming Federation (FINA) and the International Cycling Union (UCI).

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Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female (transwomen) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches. 

In reaching this position, the IRL, which last reviewed transgender participation in international rugby league in January-February 2021, considered several relevant developments in world sport. 

The statement concluded that the IRL will work with eight Women’s Rugby League World Cup 2021 finalists to garner data to work towards a “transwomen inclusion policy” in the coming year.

This week, Sarah covered how FINA, the international governing body for professional swimming, announced its decision to ban transgender athletes from women’s elite events. However, the new policy will allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s events if they complete their transition by age 12 and maintain their circulating testosterone levels below the levels of 2.5 nmol/L.

“This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It’s what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” James Pierce, the spokesperson for the FINA president said of the decision.

I covered this month how cyclings governing body, UCI, doubled-down on its transgender athlete policy. This came after British Cycling banned all transgender athletes following a controversy over a biological male “transgender” cyclist who was prohibited from competing against women.

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Several athletes came forward this week applauding FINA’s decision. 

In an interview after the news broke, Australian Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Emily Seebohm told Sky News Australia that she is “finally happy that we have a decision” and that “we just didn’t know what was going to happen.”

“It’s hard to commit fully to our sport if we have no idea the direction it’s going to go,” she added. “We can all move on. We can all just go back to the sport that we love…and know that we are getting in the pool and it’s going to be a fair, level playing field and that’s what we want.”

Former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner showed support for the decision on Twitter

“What’s fair is fair,” Jenner said. “If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period.”

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