The Guardian.com reports that World Rugby is considering banning transgender women from playing women’s rugby because of significant safety concerns that have emerged following recent research, a decision that would make it the first international sports federation to go down that path. Currently, World Rugby allow transgender women to play women’s rugby if they lower their testosterone levels for at least 12 months in line with the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines.
The Guardian revealed that in a 38-page draft document produced by World Rugby's transgender working group, it is acknowledged that there is likely to be “at least a 20-30% greater risk” of injury when a female player is tackled by someone who has gone through male puberty. The document also says the latest science shows that trans women retain “significant” physical advantages over biological women even after they take medication to lower their testosterone.
“Current policies regulating the inclusion of transgender women in sport are based on the premise that reducing testosterone to levels found in biological females is sufficient to remove many of the biologically-based performance advantages,” the draft report says. “However, peer-reviewed evidence suggests this is not the case.
“Ciswomen players (who do not undergo androgenisation during development) who are participating with and against transwomen (who do undergo androgenisation during development) are at a significantly increased risk of injury because of the contact nature of rugby.”
It adds: “While there is overlap in variables such as mass, strength, speed and the resultant kinetic and kinematic forces we have modelled to explore the risk factors, the situation where a typical player with male characteristics tackles a typical player with female characteristics creates a minimum of 20% to 30% greater risk for those female players. In the event of smaller female players being exposed to that risk, or of larger male players acting as opponents, the risk increases significantly, and may reach levels twice as large, at the extremes.”
The proposals also recommend that transgender men should be allowed to play against other men – provided they get a physical assessment and a therapeutic-exemption-use certificate and sign a statement accepting they understand the greater injury risks.
A draft version of the waiver for transgender men to sign, seen by the Guardian, says: “I acknowledge and accept the injury risks associated with transgender males playing contact rugby with males who are statistically likely to be stronger, faster and heavier than transgender males, as described in the World Rugby Transgender Guidelines which I have read and understand.”