THE INCLUSION OF transgender people in competitive sport “cannot co-exist” with fairness and safety, a major review has concluded.

Guidance published today sets out how transgender people could be better included in non-elite sports through the creation of ‘open’ or ‘universal’ categories, but explains that for many sports there is no way for transgender people – trans women in particular - to compete against other women in a way that would be fair.

The Sports Councils Equality Group (SCEG), an overarching body with members from Sportscotland, Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland, Sport Wales and UK Sport, conducted the lengthy review as they said the current guidance was not fit for purpose.

They spent 18 months gathering submissions, as well as reviewing current research.

Despite taking evidence from hundreds of people, they said that nobody was able to offer a “single solution which would resolve all the identified issues, or that would satisfy all stakeholders.”

The group added: “For many sports, the inclusion of transgender people, fairness and safety cannot co-exist in a single competitive model.”

They have recommended that governing bodies for individual sports essentially come to their own decisions about how to better include transgender people.

The SCEG has set out 10 principles for helping sporting bodies to “reimagine” how to include transgender people in their sport.

One of the themes relates to testosterone suppression, which some had thought could be effective in creating a fairer landscape for transgender women to compete in women’s sport.

However the review states: “Emerging evidence does not support the view that testosterone suppression for 12 months will achieve parity of strength, stamina and physique for transgender women compared with females; and hence cannot guarantee fairness.

“Rather, there appears to be a retention of physical capacity in transgender people who suppress testosterone from male levels.  Research has only been collected for less than two decades and does not include longitudinal objective measurements of high-level transgender athletes.”

The review also concluded that “testosterone suppression is unlikely to guarantee fairness between transgender women and natal females in gender-affected sports" and there are "retained differences in strength, stamina and physique between the average woman compared with the average transgender woman or non-binary person registered male at birth".

Its main recommendation is that individual governing bodies for each sport should come to their own decisions, based on their priorities – either inclusion of transgender competitors or ‘competitive fairness’, and safety if that is a concern.

It states that if safety, inclusion and competitive fairness are all priorities then organisations should develop their own “model for decision making around the best options and opportunities.”

Sports which could choose to prioritise safety or competitive fairness may include ones which are contact sports, have high levels of collision or combat sports like boxing and karate, or those which rely on stamina and strength.

In these cases, they could choose to create an additional category, described as “universal” to allow transgender athletes to compete.

Chief executive of sportscotland, Stewart Harris, said- he hoped the review would “open up rather than close down” opportunities for transgender sportspeople.

He said: “We believe that sport is for everyone and that no-one should be excluded. Our aim is for inclusion to underpin everything we do at sportscotland and we want sport to be a place where everyone can be themselves and be treated with kindness, dignity and respect. 

“The suggested recommendations for the Scottish Governing Bodies (SGBs) we work with gives them a framework to consider when they are developing their own policies in this area, as well as a summary of the research.

“This will help them define and explore a range of options best suited to their activity. We believe that this provides a significantly stronger, more specific, and authoritative framework than has ever existed before in relation to transgender inclusion in sport.

“We want this guidance to open up, rather than close down opportunities for everyone, recognising that many other people already feel excluded from sport and physical activity. We now want to see meaningful and respectful consultation in developing these approaches, which we hope will facilitate increased transgender participation and help sport to become more open, inclusive and diverse.”