UK Athletics backs ban on trans women in female events

The national governing body say scientific evidence had led to its recommendation but that a change to legislation is required.

UK Athletics backs ban on trans women in female events but calls for law change iStock

UK Athletics has backed a ban on trans women in the female category on “scientific grounds” but says a change to equality legislation is required.

In a statement issued on Friday, the national governing body for the sport said it wished to be a “welcoming environment” for all however does not agree with the use of testosterone suppression for transgender women.

As a result, UK Athletics (UKA) said the female category in events should be reserved for “competitors who were female at birth” in order to ensure athletes can “continue to compete fairly”.

The move has been described as an “important update” by Scottish Athletics who say they will continue engage in discussions on the issue.

The organisation also said efforts should be made to allow transgender women to compete in an “open” category which would replace the current male category and be open to all sexes.

However, UKA also claim a change to current equality legislation is required for these changes to be implemented.

It is claimed sections of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equalities Act 2010 prevent any exemption from treating those with a GRC as female, even for sporting purposes.

However, the claim a change to the law is required has been disputed.

British Triathlon also said it had taken legal advice about introducing an open and a protected female category and was confident its new policy was “robust” and protected by the Equality Act.

UKA, which has a Transgender Project Group to help make recommendations, issued the statement after the consideration of scientific evidence from the UK Sports Council Equality Group (SCEG) published in September 2021.

It states that: “Transgender women retain a testosterone/puberty advantage over biological females regardless of the reduction of post puberty testosterone levels.”

The organisation also said: “UKA has seen no evidence that it is safe for transgender women to reduce their hormonal levels by testosterone suppression. Further, there is insufficient research to understand the effects on transgender women if such testosterone suppression is carried out suddenly.”

The news also comes as World Athletics has proposed to continue to allow transgender women to compete in female international track and field events. A consultation process is under way with member federations, who will vote in March.

World Athletics’ preferred option is to tighten the sport’s eligibility rules, yet still use testosterone limits as the basis for inclusion.

UKA chair Ian Beattie said: “Athletics is an incredibly inclusive sport and we want it to be a welcoming environment for all to enjoy competing in.

“I cannot think of another sport that encompasses such a diverse community and it is something to be proud of. At the same time, we also have a duty to ensure fairness in competition in the women’s category.

“The statement we are issuing today demonstrates the challenge UKA and other sporting governing bodies are faced with at this time. Therefore we are calling for a change in legislation that will provide clarity for all and ensure the women’s category can be lawfully reserved for female at birth competitors.

“We would appeal to all those engaged in this discussion online to share their thoughts in a way that is respectful of the differing opinions and sensitive nature of the debate.”

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