British Rowing has announced that transgender athletes will be prohibited from representing Great Britain or England in women’s international races. The new rules will come into effect on September 11. However, trans rowers will still have the option to compete in an “open” category, and event organizers may choose to offer a “mixed” category if at least 50% of the crew members were assigned female at birth.
British Rowing stated that it is committed to creating an inclusive and accessible environment for all rowers, and it will review the guidelines within 12 months. This decision marks a reversal of last year’s announcement when British Rowing declared that its eligibility requirements would align with World Rowing guidelines.
Currently, World Rowing allows transgender athletes to compete as females if they lower their testosterone levels to below 2.5 nanomoles per liter for a minimum of 12 months. This threshold was recently reduced from 5 nanomoles per liter. The International Olympic Committee has also moved away from testosterone-focused guidelines and no longer excludes athletes based on presumed anatomical advantages.
Last year, Mark Davies, the chairman of British Rowing, urged World Rowing to follow the example of the swimming body Fina by introducing “open” and “women’s” categories. However, World Rowing has not implemented these categories at present.
In July, World Aquatics announced the inclusion of an “open” category for transgender swimmers, following its previous decision to prohibit trans athletes who had undergone male puberty or gender reassignment surgery after the age of 12 from participating in female events.
Similarly, last month, the Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body for cycling, announced that male-born trans athletes who transitioned after puberty would not be allowed to compete in women’s events to ensure equal opportunities.
The International Rugby League became the first world sports body to prohibit trans women from women’s rugby matches last year. The organization stated that additional research is necessary before allowing male-born athletes to participate in full-contact sports with women.
Transgender advocates argue that genetically male athletes should be able to compete as women if they have reached certain transition milestones. However, a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that even after 10 years of hormone treatment, transwomen had 18% greater strength and 20% higher aerobic capacity compared to biological women of similar age and background.
It remains to be seen how other sports organizations will approach transgender inclusion in the future. The debate continues, with various governing bodies grappling with the complexities and considerations surrounding transgender participation in elite sports.