Sport creates first ‘open’ category for trans athletes


The British Triathlon Federation announced that its new policy will start in January

The British Triathlon Federation has confirmed a first-ever ‘open’ category in UK sports made especially for transgender athletes. 

The new policy will be brought in from January 2023, and will be created “for all individuals including male, [male and female] transgender and those non-binary who were male sex at birth,” it was announced.

The ‘open’ category will apply in events where prizes are on offer or rankings are at stake, which includes those at grassroots level in the sport that takes in facets of running, swimming and cycling.

As part of a statement, British Triathlon said that its new policy “outlines that triathlon is a sport for everyone and that transphobic behavior will not be tolerated.”

The body revealed how it started its policy review process at the end of 2021 and went through a period of independent consultation which ensured how, along with conducting the latest research, it heard from its community, key groups and individuals about their views and experiences.

“We are easily and reliably able to observe the advantages – in terms of both performance outcomes and physiology/biology – [that] those athletes who are the male sex at birth have over athletes who are the female sex at birth,” it claimed.

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British Triathlon said that its sport is made up of three distinct disciplines, each of which “have a long history with clear differentials between the performances achieved between males and females.”

It also wanted to make it clear that it does not tolerate “transphobic behavior, harassment, bullying or hate speech of any kind,” with anyone who comments on its policy expected to do so “with empathy and consideration for all of those who have been involved and who may still have questions and concerns about how the policy impacts them”.

Speaking amid the announcement, British Triathlon chief executive Andy Salmon said: “Where this is competitive activity, fairness is paramount,” adding that: “Our sport is gender-affected.”

“We believe this is the right policy for triathlon in Great Britain, and the right time to publish it. We have taken legal advice and are confident it’s legally robust,” Salmon also stated.

British Triathlon decided on its new approach after conducting a survey of more than 3,000 members. With it, the organization found that 80% favored having two categories.

The new policy will replace existing 2018 guidelines that allowed trans women to compete against female athletes providing that they had suppressed their testosterone.

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And while Salmon claimed he was “not aware” of any transgender triathletes currently operating at an elite level at present, he stressed that British Triathlon “didn’t want to be a governing body that waited for that to be a problem before we tried to fix it.”

“We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day, and we wanted to be ready for that day,” he insisted.

The revolutionary move from British Triathlon comes after global swimming authority FINA banned transgender athletes who had completed any part of male puberty and also vowed to create an ‘open’ category.

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries backed FINA’s move and reportedly told the chiefs of UK sporting bodies how “elite and competitive women’s sport must be reserved for people born of the female sex” when she met with them recently.

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Even so, Salmon insists that the new policy came “free from political pressure” and outdates Dorries’ public comments on social media and in the British press as outlined in the body’s statement.

The changes come at a time when a string of British sports bodies are looking into amending their transgender eligibility policies.

Though FINA has made itschanges already, and global cycling governing body the UCI has already doubled the period of time a rider transitioning from male to female needs to wait before competing in women’s races to 24 months, British Swimming and British Cycling haven’t yet announced changes to their policies in line with the international amendments. 

Until their new inclusion policy is decided, to “balance the individual’s right to participate… against perceived risk to other participants”, rugby league’s governing body has banned all transgender women from women’s international events which includes its World Cup later this year.

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