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International Rugby League Bans Transwomen From Women’s Competitions Until Policy Is Developed

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The International Rugby League (IRL) has banned transgender women – biological males who say they are women – from competing against women until “further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy,” the organization announced on Tuesday.

“In the interests of avoiding unnecessary welfare, legal and reputational risk to International Rugby League competitions, and those competing therein, the IRL believes there is a requirement and responsibility to further consult and complete additional research before finalising its policy,” the IRL said in a statement. “The IRL reaffirms its belief that rugby league is a game for all and that anyone and everyone can play our sport.”

“It is the IRL’s responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate – a long-standing principle of rugby league and at its heart from the day it was established – against perceived risk to other participants, and to ensure all are given a fair hearing,” the statement continued. “The IRL will continue to work towards developing a set of criteria, based on best possible evidence, which fairly balance the individual’s right to play with the safety of all participants.”

“To help achieve this, the IRL will seek to work with the eight Women’s Rugby League World Cup 2021 finalists to obtain data to inform a future transwomen inclusion policy in 2023, which takes into consideration the unique characteristics of rugby league,” the statement added.

The announcement comes one day after FINA, the world’s top international swimming association, announced a new policy placing restrictions on transgender women from competing in swimming competitions.

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said in a statement.

Under the new policy, biological males can only compete against women if they have had “male puberty suppressed beginning at Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later, and they have since continuously maintained their testosterone levels in serum (or plasma) below 2.5 nmol/L.”

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