International sports associations suddenly announce new transgender athlete policies

Agencies governing cycling, swimming, soccer, track and field, and rugby recently unveiled intentions to either ban or severely restrict male athletes who identify as women from competing based on their gender identity.

The Union Cycliste Internationale, which oversees international cycling, was the first committee to implement tighter restrictions last week.

Five sports governing bodies have issued new eligibility directives for men wanting to compete in women’s sports divisions as transgender athletes. 

The international agencies governing cycling, swimming, soccer, track and field, and rugby recently unveiled intentions to either ban or severely restrict male athletes who identify as women from competing based on their gender identity.

The Union Cycliste Internationale, which oversees international cycling, was the first committee to implement tighter restrictions on transgender athletes by announcing new standards late last week. 

However, it was the International Swimming Federation (FINA) that broke the headlines after instituting a near ban on any male athlete from the women’s division.

Swimming garnered national attention in the United States after former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas won a national title in the 500-yard freestyle this past March.

Similar proposals were released by the International Federation of Association Football, the World Athletics Committee, and the International Rugby League early this week.

Below is a breakdown of the new policies: 

Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which regulates international cycling competitions, tightened its eligibility standards for transgender athletes after concerns that male cyclists would have an inherent advantage over female competitors.

The policy was discussed during the Management Committee of the UCI meeting held on June 14-16.

The new policy lowered the permitted level of testosterone a rider must record and increased the time athletes must wait before being eligible to compete based on gender identity.

Instead of recording testosterone levels below 5 nmol/L for a 12-month duration, male athletes who wish to compete as women must hold a minimum of 2.5 n/mol for 24 months.

The decrease was approved based on “scientific publications” on endurance capacity and muscle strength.

“Given the important role played by muscle strength and power in cycling performance, the UCI has decided to increase the transition period on low testosterone from 12 to 24 months,” the UCI statement read.

The new standards will go into effect on July 1.

With the adaptation of new rules for the participation of transgender athletes in competitions on the UCI International Calendar, our sport has a regulation that is fully consistent with the most recent scientific knowledge in this area,” UCI President David Lappartient said in a press release provided to Campus Reform. “It is indeed important in this field to rely on objective knowledge to reconcile the very real need for inclusion with the essential need for fairness.”

International Swimming Federation (FINA)

On Sunday, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) issued a near ban on male athletes competing in the women’s division regardless of how they identify. The updated gender inclusion policy protects “competitive fairness” for women.

 Under the new policy, male athletes who transition to identify as women will not be eligible to compete at FINA-regulated competitions if they transitioned after the age of 12.

FINA will also consider adopting “open” events for transgender athletes to compete in. However, this proposal will be under consideration by a working group for the next six months.

World Swimming Coaches Association Vice President George Block told Campus Reform in his capacity that FINA “did a good job of protecting women’s sports” and that the policy “respects real science.”

World Athletics

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe implied that track and field could be next in the slew of sports agencies that restrict participation to biological sex shortly after the FINA announcement Sunday.

“My responsibility is to protect the integrity of women’s sport and we take that very seriously, and if it means that we have to make adjustments to protocols going forward, we will,” Coe said. 

The insinuation came after Coe commended FINA for taking action to regulate gendered competition, adding that the policy was in “the best interest of its sport,” and announced that the World Athletics council would evaluate its transgender policy.

The policy is expected to be examined at the end of the year. Like the FINA ruling, the new policy would emphasize fairness in competition. 

”We have always believed, and repeated constantly, that biology trumps gender and we will continue to review our regulations in line with this,” World Athletics Media Relations Senior Manager Maggie Durand told Campus Reform. 

Currently, male athletes are permitted to compete in the women’s division so long as testosterone is recorded below 5nmol/L for 12 months. 

We have always said our regulations in this area are a living document, specific to our sport and we will follow the science,” Durand clarified. “We continue to study, research and contribute to the growing body of evidence that testosterone is a key determinator in performance and have scheduled a discussion on our DSD and Transgender regulations with our Council at the end of the year.”

Controversy hit the United States in 2019 after a biological male won an NCAA track and field title in 2019. CeCe Telfer, who publicly transitioned in 2018, won the 400-meter hurdles and became the first known ‘trans woman’ to win an NCAA track and field title.

International Federation of Association Football (FIFA)

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), which regulates international soccer competitions, is considering a draft proposal for a new transgender policy that would remove barriers for athletes seeking to compete based on their transition.

The announcement was publicized on Monday.

The new regulation would remove testosterone requirements for male athletes transitioning to compete on women’s teams, The Mail on Sunday reports

If approved, it would signal the green light for male athletes to participate as a woman in the contact sport on the professional stage.

A FIFA spokesperson told Campus Reform that the policy is under deliberation and is seeking the opinion of medical, legal, and human rights experts. The policy will abide by the precedent established by the International Olympic Committee.

”Due to the ongoing nature of the process, FIFA is not in a position to comment on specifics of proposed amendments to the existing regulations,” the spokesperson said.

A final decision is not expected until the end of the year.

International Rugby League

On Tuesday, the International Rugby League announced it would temporarily bar biological men from competing in women’s leagues while it conducts a review of its transgender policy.

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,” the announcement read.

The league will consult with eight Women’s Rugby League World Cup 2021 finalists to draft a new policy expected to unveil in 2023.

Campus Reform has contacted FINA and Telfer for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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