Cycling, Swimming And Now Rugby–Here Are The Sports That Imposed Bans Or Restrictions On Transgender Competitors

Topline

The International Rugby League Monday became the latest international sports organization to ban transgender athletes from participating—joining the world swimming and cycling governing bodies, which imposed new restrictions—as other major sports grapple with how to respond to a rise in attention to trans athletes.

Key Facts

The rugby league barred trans women from competing in sanctioned women’s rugby matches Tuesday, saying in a press release the league would wait for further research to establish a formal inclusion policy.

The International Swimming Federation announced Sunday it will bar trans women who’ve gone through male puberty or had a procedure after the age of 12 from competing in elite events, but said it’s established an “open” category for swimmers whose gender differs from their birth sex.

This month, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body of cycling, announced trans competitors will only be eligible if their testosterone levels have been 2.5 nanomoles per liter over a 24-month period–a difference from its previous 5 nmol/L over 12 month period rule.

British Cycling–which previously had allowed transgender and non-binary people to compete–suspended its policy in April by a vote of the body’s board of directors, stating it “poses a challenge to the integrity of racing.”

TANGENT

A total of 19 states–Idaho, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Florida, Texas, South Dakota, Iowa, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Indiana and Louisiana– have barred transgender athletes from participating in sports at some level.

SURPRISING FACT

Republican Wyoming state Sen. Wendy Schuler, who sponsored legislation barring transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports, argued that allowing them to do so would violate Title IX– federal legislation targeting sex discrimination. Contrarily, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit against House Enrolled Act 1041 in Indiana on behalf of a former softball player who can no longer play because she’s trans, and their argument is that these kinds of bills violate Title IX.

KEY BACKGROUND

Lia Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania graduate and swimmer who won the NCAA 2021-22 championship in the women’s 500-yard freestyle (the first trans woman to do so), has become a lightning rod for opponents of trans athletes competing in women’s sports. She previously swam for the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s team, ranking 554th in the 200 freestyle. Once she transitioned in 2019, she joined the women’s team and began to dominate. FINA’s recent decision directly impacts her.

CHIEF CRITIC

Athlete Ally, the LGBTQ sports group, recently criticized FINA’s decision for policing “the bodies of all women” and calling it “deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific.”

CONTRA

The FINA decision was hailed by Martina Navratilova, the former top tennis player who was criticized for her stance against trans women playing women’s sports. Nancy Hogshead, a former women’s swimmer and Olympic gold medalist, also expressed her support for FINA’s new policy, telling News 4 WJXTV that she hopes “‘other sports organizations, sports governing bodies, will be able to kind of use some of the science and research that has been produced so that they can come up with the same decision.’”

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, and World Athletics, which oversees track and field, running and racewalking, said Monday that they are reviewing their transgender policies.

FURTHER READING

Rugby Is The Latest Sport To Bar Trans Athletes From Competition As Athletics, Soccer Mull Similar Policy (Forbes)

World Swimming Federation Bars Most Transgender Women From Elite Events—But Weighs ‘Open Competition’ Category (Forbes)

‘We Transition To Be Happy’: Lia Thomas Pushes Back Against Detractors Of Transgender Athletes (Forbes)

Cycling’s governing body sets stricter rules for transgender athletes (The Guardian)

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