World Triathlon allow transgender women to keep competing in female category

World Triathlon has voted to allow transgender women to keep competing in the female category, in a ruling which goes notably against recent decisions from the governing bodies of swimming and rugby league.

However, under World Triathlon’s new rules, trans women will face greater restrictions before gaining approval to compete internationally – including having to lower their testosterone levels for two years rather than one, as is the case now. They must also now wait for at least four years after transitioning if they have previously competed as a male in any sporting competition rather than one.

World Triathlon, which is closely linked with the International Olympic Committee, said in a statement that its new policy aimed to balance inclusion with fairness.

However, it is likely to face strong opposition from campaign groups for women’s sport, who have pointed to the science that overwhelming shows that transgender women retain significant advantages in speed, strength, lung capacity and endurance even after testosterone is reduced.

World Triathlon’s new policy, which will be introduced next month, states: “To compete in the female category in an elite or age-group triathlon competition, a transgender athlete must demonstrate that the concentration of testosterone in the athlete’s serum has been less than 2.5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 24 months. Also, at least 48 months must have elapsed since the transgender athlete has competed as a male in any sporting competition.”

The new rules only apply to international competition, with British Triathlon taking a very different stance in its policy for domestic racing. Under its new rules, transgender athletes over the age of 12 will have to compete in an open category from January next year, which is for “all individuals including male, transgender and those non-binary who were male sex at birth”.

In a statement, World Triathlon said its new policy was approved by the majority of the executive board, although its vice-president, Ian Howard, and president of the athletes’ committee, Tamas Toth, voted against.

“We are a small International Federation, but one that has always had inclusion and gender balance in our DNA,” the World Triathlon president and IOC member, Marisol Casado, said.

“The policy that we have just approved shows that we are prioritising the fairness principle but showing inclusiveness. It is fully aligned with the IOC’s recommendation, and similar to what other international federations have done in the last months.”