The United Kingdom’s Sports Councils Equality Group has released its long-awaited comprehensive report on the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports. The report finds that testosterone suppression treatment for trans athletes “does not negate” physical advantages against their biologically female counterparts, and recommends that trans athletes should not be allowed to compete against women.
The report concludes that male-to-female transgender athletes have a competitive advantage against biologically female athletes, and that it is impossible to guarantee safety and fairness in women’s sports if male-to-female athletes are allowed to compete.
The report was compiled by a group that includes representatives from various sporting organizations in the U.K., and took 18 months to complete. It contains hundreds of testimonials and interviews with dozens of experts, athletes, and sporting organizations. The Daily Mail reports that the advantage possessed by male-to-female transgender athletes remains “even when testosterone levels have been reduced.”
Under current regulations, the International Olympic Committee allows male-to-female athletes to compete in women’s events, as long as their testosterone levels remain below a certain threshold for at least a year before competing internationally.
Despite the ruling, U.K. Sport found that testosterone suppression does not remove the physical advantages that transgender athletes possess. As such, it “isn’t possible to guarantee safety and competitive fairness in some sports.”
“Current research indicates that testosterone suppression does not negate this physical advantage over females and so cannot guarantee competitive fairness and/or safety,” the report stated.
By default, adult male athletes have on average a 10 to 12 per cent performance advantage over their female counterparts in swimming and running events. That advantage increases to 20 per cent in jumping events, and 35 per cent in strength-based sports, including weightlifting.
The report finds that transgender athletes retain their physical capacity as males despite suppressing their testosterone levels.
“Such physical differences will also impact on safety parameters in sports which are combat, collision or contact in nature,” the report found.
To rectify issues of inclusivity, and transgender athletes in sports, the organization suggested that there be a “universal” category where both men and women can compete voluntarily without gender restrictions.
“[Sports governing bodies] may choose to offer sport in which the female category is protected for reasons of competitive fairness and/or safety if they are gender affected. These sports would offer both a female category and an open category. Female entries would be required to declare themselves as recorded female at birth. An open category would be available for any competitor to enter,” the report added.
“The guidance provides content and a framework on which sports can make decisions and sets out some of the options a sport might consider, from prioritizing transgender inclusion, or protecting the female category, and to additionally introducing universal admission,” the report said.
The International Olympic Committee plans to refine its own guidance following controversy at the Tokyo 2020 Games, which saw the inclusion of the first openly transgender athlete, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard. The organization is expected to provide a new framework for the inclusion of trans athletes within the next two months.