Nadine Dorries plots summit to overhaul sport’s transgender rules

Meanwhile leading British women had been considering a boycott. Sara Symington, the head of Olympic and Paralympic programs at British Cycling, then signed a letter calling for the testosterone inclusion limit to be scrapped.

“The testosterone assessment is ridiculous – a sign of laziness,” one senior sports administrator told Telegraph Sport, adding that it had been jumped on by governing bodies after the International Olympic Committee decided that it was a plausible way forward.

As well as the Government intervention, the charity Women in Sport quietly published a statement earlier this month in which it provided a framework from which governing bodies could approach the issue.

It described the research conducted last year by the sports council as “extensive, peer-reviewed and the best evidence we have at this time” and said that arguments about its validity would distract from finding solutions.

The guidance concludes, “that the inclusion of transgender people into female sport cannot be balanced regarding transgender inclusion, fairness and safety in gender-affected sport where there is meaningful competition”, and pointed to likely retained advantages in strength and physicality.

Women in Sport have now urged governing bodies “to avoid being led by reputation” and instead “focus on what is right and wrong”.

Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he does not think trans women should compete in women’s sport, the Government is expected to emphasize the sports councils’ report rather than mandate action. “The sports council summary is now there but it was not being acted upon,” said one source. “I think if more women were running sports, this would have been picked on much quicker. The right people weren’t thinking about it – it was being delegated to quite junior staff. Why? I think it is because the only people it really affects are women. ”

Dorries spoke publicly about the issue last week, saying that “you can choose your gender and we will support you and help you to do that… but you can’t change your biology”.

British Cycling has currently suspended its transgender policy, pending a review for which the terms of reference are still being finalized. A decision by the UCI on the Bridges’ case is expected in around two weeks.

The unease was palpable even in Bridges’ absence at the British National Omnium Championships in Derby and many of the greatest riders from previous generations subsequently signed a letter calling for trans inclusion guidance to be scrapped.

There has separately since been an open letter organized by the Pride Out group, which has 560 signatories, and calls for British Cycling to revoke its current suspension of trans athletes in women’s races.

It is understood that Bridges is the only rider to have gone through the process of applying to have their racing license changed from male to female and there is a clear feeling that the reaction to her case has been grossly disproportionate.

It has also been argued that it runs counter to the IOC stated policy that there should be no assumed advantage among trans athletes. Bridges is among those athletes currently contributing to a research project at Loughborough University that is designed to answer questions about any retained advantages. In an interview with Cycling Weekly, she reported significant reductions in her power output.

Women athletes are also beginning to voice their opinions. Olympic gold medalist Katie Archibald posted a statement last week, endorsed by Laura Kenny, in which she strongly condemned the treatment of Bridges but also stressed the importance of “fairness”.

“I think young women would be very welcoming and supportive of people transitioning but elite sport is perhaps the one area where inclusion doesn’t work,” said one executive.

In the human rights community, there is concern that other important competing issues are being overlooked amid a narrow focus on issues of fairness. Also that ethical questions around testosterone suppression are not being considered fully and that the sports councils’ research did not sufficiently consider the real-life experiences of trans athletes.

But, whether nationally or internationally, the current direction of travel appears clear. “I can’t think of many issues where the public debate had turned so quickly – and that discourse has helped those sports who are looking at taking a more hardline stance,” said one insider.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.