Commonwealth Games change in gender rules could see a trans woman compete in the female cycling in Birmingham 2022

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Organisers of the Commonwealth Games have agreed on gender rules which could see a trans woman compete in a female cycling event which is to take place in Birmingham later this year.

According to a report published in The Telegraph, The Commonwealth Games Federation have been discussing how to effectively manage the issue of transgender competition for the past 12 months and have now finalised their policy.

The competition will follow the rules applied by individual sporting bodies within each discipline for instance, in cycling, the Union Cycliste Internationale holds a transgender policy that requires a rider’s testosterone level to be below 5nmol/L for at least 12 months before their first race.

According to the Telegraph’s report, this means an unnamed athlete, who had previously competed in male events, will now be in contention for selection in a female cycling category. In conversation with the paper, the federation said, ‘The CGF will work in close partnership with the relevant international federations to establish qualification and eligibility criteria for athlete participation at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games,’ 

Female Cyclists compete in the Commonwealth Games
Female Cyclists compete in the Commonwealth Games

A spokesman has said that the new policy ‘will be in keeping with principles established in the IOC framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations’.

‘We embrace all Commonwealth athletes, citizens, communities and nations and promote fairness, non-discrimination and inclusion,’ the federation added.

There was, however, huge controversy last weekend when American swimmer Lia Thomas, who transitioned in 2019, won the US national college title in the women’s 500-yard freestyle. Ms Thomas was faced not only with boos from the crowd but also protest on the podium from her competitors and many have refused to acknowledge her victory. Swimming currently imposes a limit of 10nmol/L on the testosterone levels for trans women. That is twice the level of cycling and athletics.

Thomas’ victory has sparked an outcry from rivals and escalated the conversation around the future risks to the female category in sport, with World Athletics president Sebastian Coe concerned that women’s sport is in a ‘very fragile’ place.

He said: ‘It is inevitable that as in any element of science you will go on understanding and learning, but there is no question to me that testosterone is the key determinant in performance. 

‘Look at the nature of 12 or 13-year-old girls. I remember my daughters would regularly outrun male counterparts in their class but as soon as puberty kicks in that gap opens and it remains. Gender cannot trump biology.’  

Penn swimmer Lia Thomas holds a trophy after winning the 500-yard free final on Thursday.   BRETT DAVIS, USA TODAY SPORTS
Penn swimmer Lia Thomas holds a trophy after winning the 500-yard free final on Thursday.
©BRETT DAVIS, USA TODAY SPORTS

When asked how athletics may respond if the debate that is currently raging through swimming spreads to track and field, Coe stated, ‘If I feel that we’ve got the right processes in place and what we’re doing is, in large part, evidence and science-based, I will feel a whole heap more comfortable. You can’t be oblivious to public sentiment, of course not. But science is important. If I wasn’t satisfied with the science that we have and the experts that we have used and the in-house teams that have been working on this for a long time, if I wasn’t comfortable about that, this would be a very different landscape.’ 

The International Olympic Committee revises its guidelines on transgender participation in November.

Under the previous rules which were published in 2015, trans athletes were allowed to compete in the female category only if their testosterone production was suppressed to below 10 nanomoles per litre, 12 months before competing.

However, new guidelines have removed the stipulated limit on testosterone production and have instead said that individual sporting federations should decide on their own eligibility criteria. It added that there should be ‘no presumption of [competitive] advantage’ on the part of a trans woman who has gone through male puberty.

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