In a first blog post by For Women Scotland Sport we welcome the decision by Scottish Rugby to follow the other home nations in ensuring that from the age of 12 only athletes born female will be able to compete in contact rugby. This is a huge step forward in ensuring both fairness and safety in the women’s game.
By contrast it is in hugely disappointing to hear the news that, following a period of consultation, World Athletics’ current proposal for inclusion of transwomen and male athletes with DSDs within female sport is to require athletes to reduce their testosterone levels to 2.5 nmols/L for a period of two years.
Despite stating that they would be guided by the science World Athletics President Sebastian Coe seems to merely be kicking the can down the road in an effort to ruffle as few feathers as possible.
To propose such a categorisation means that we will continue to have sport categorised not, as most people believe, on the basis of sex , but simply on the basis of testosterone levels a policy which fails to address the reasons why sport is segregated by sex in the first place.
Females are not males with low testosterone levels. There are more than 6000 differences between a male and a female body and the suppression of testosterone impacts very few of those and even then the impact is minimal. These differences include height, length of limbs, larger hands and feet, differing Q angles (which allow for longer strides), larger hearts and lungs (which allow for more efficient oxygen transfer) and greater proportions of twitch fibres which provide an advantage in explosive sprints and jumps. Drs Emma Hilton and Tommy Lundberg have done extensive work in this area, work that led the 4 sports councils of the UK Nations to conclude that the inclusion of transwomen in female sport sacrificed fairness.
Track and field world bests are recorded from age 5 onwards. These are overwhelmingly held by males with only a bare handful held by females. Male physical advantage is obvious in the earliest age groups and the average age at which a male will exceed the female world records in track and field events is 14-15.
If we are no longer to categorise sport by sex but by testosterone levels then it begs the question as to the reasons for excluding any male who has reduced his testosterone levels to the range set. Unless sport has the courage to face the elephant in the room head on then these issues will continue for the foreseeable future.
For Women Scotland Sport aims to advocate for female athletes and to work with other organisations to ensure a fair and safe playing field for women and girls.
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