World Rugby announced that it undertook a review of its “rugby-specific transgender guidelines” in light of the “latest research” and generated quite a stir by claiming that they were committed to “ensuring a safe and inclusive gaming environment at all levels of the game”.
In a statement to BBC Sport, the mother body of rugby added: “The latest research by specialists confirms that a reduction in testosterone does not lead to a proportional reduction in mass, muscle mass, strength or power. These determinants, important for risk injury and performance are still significantly elevated after testosterone suppression. “
“This presents a clear security risk when transgender women play women’s contact rugby and this position is reflected in draft guidelines that are currently in consultation with stakeholders. The World Rugby Council will consider the matter later this year. “
“Rugby is an inclusive and inclusive sport and World Rugby is fully committed to continuing to work with specialists to explore appropriate avenues of participation for transgender athletes and is funding further research on the safe participation of all players in rugby.”
The decision is expected in November when the unions vote on the proposals at a meeting of the World Rugby Council. The possible ban was first reported in The Guardian, which had access to the 38-page draft of World Rugby.
A transgender World Rugby workshop in February ended with a ‘comprehensive review’ of the sport, bringing together experts from around the world to discuss a ‘rugby-specific framework for all, prioritizing the well-being, inclusion and equity of athletes. “
One of the experts who attended the workshop was Dr. Nicola Williams, director of the advocacy group for women’s rights Fair Play for Women, who described World Rugby’s position as “pioneering” if she continues with the decision. “Sensitivity around this issue and fear that people will be called transphobic for raising these concerns caused most managers to have buried their heads in the ground,” she told BBC Sport.
“Therefore, World Rugby should really be commended for its bravery and integrity, for taking this approach and following a science-based approach.” However, Loughborough University medical physicist and transgender woman Joanna Harper, who also attended the workshop, said she does not believe a ban is correct.
“I certainly understand all of that and I think that putting restrictions on trans women is reasonable, but I certainly don’t agree with this idea of a total ban,” Harper said, adding, “I don’t think this is necessarily the way to go. World Rugby has given us a month to issue responses and I will. “
World Rugby’s current transgender policy follows the policy of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Guidelines issued by the IOC in November 2015 stated that transgender women must suppress testosterone levels for at least 12 months before competition. Testosterone is a hormone that increases muscle mass, and athletes in transition from woman to man can participate without restriction, but the IOC is currently developing new guidelines.