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World Rugby’s updated transgender guidelines ban transwomen playing at elite level
World Rugby has updated its transgender participation guidelines - which recommend banning transwomen from playing women’s contact rugby at elite and international levels based on safety and fairness concerns.
World Rugby advises that these recommendations come after a comprehensive, collaborative and transparent review of its existing guidance. The new guidelines cover the participation of transgender athletes in men’s and women’s contact rugby where it is possible to do so safely and fairly.
In a document explaining its decision published on Friday (9th October), World Rugby noted that “the physiological differences between males and females necessitate dedicated men’s and women’s contact rugby categories for safety and performance reasons.
“Given the best available evidence for the effects of testosterone reduction on these physical attributes for transgender women, it was concluded that safety and fairness cannot presently be assured for women competing against transwomen in contact rugby.”
As a result, the new guidelines do not recommend that transwomen play women’s contact rugby on safety grounds at the elite and international level of the game where size, strength, power and speed are crucial for both risk and performance.
All transwomen will still be able to play non-contact rugby against women, however. The guidelines also do not apply to transwomen who have not undergone male puberty – as they will not have the gained the advantages of extra testosterone and androgens.
It will also be up to each individual federation to decide whether to enforce the policy for the grassroots/domestic/community game.
However in their statement explaining the decision, World Rugby made clear the potential added risk to player safety if countries went against its guidelines adding “given the best available evidence for the effects of testosterone reduction on these physical attributes for transgender women, it was concluded that safety and fairness cannot presently be assured for women competing against transwomen in contact rugby.”
Agreement of the guidelines completes a comprehensive and inclusive process chaired by Dr Araba Chintoh that set out to understand whether it was possible to balance inclusivity with safety and fairness in light of growing evidence that the testosterone suppression required by previous transgender regulations does not significantly impact muscle mass, strength or power.
Dr Chintoh advises “this has been a complex and emotive process, but a necessary one. We set out to determine whether it would be possible to maintain inclusion in contact rugby based on the available research and evidence and rugby’s unique context of combining strength, power, speed and endurance in a physical, collision environment. As we progressed through a comprehensive and inclusive review, it became clear that there are compelling evidenced safety considerations which we simply cannot ignore."
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont added “Rugby is a welcoming and inclusive sport and, while this has been a difficult decision to make, it has been taken following comprehensive consultation and engagement and for the right reasons, given the risk of injury. That said, we recognise that the science continues to evolve, and we are committed to regularly reviewing these guidelines, always seeking to be inclusive.”
To access World Rugby updated transgender participation guidelines click here
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9th August 2019 - Injury concerns force World Rugby to introduce new tackling laws
20th June 2019 - World Rugby scraps plans for new Nations Championship
13th March 2017 - World Rugby launches eight-year strategy to grow women’s game
2nd September 2016 - Venues announced for HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2016/17
15th September 2015 - World Rugby announces record anti-doping investment
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