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World Rugby’s plan to ban trans players has ‘no scientific basis’

World Rugby’s plan to ban trans players has ‘no scientific basis’

  • Dozens of academics have told World Rugby they are being unfair on trans and non-binary players.
Italian and French women’s rugby players.

Leading academics have attacked World Rugby’s proposals to ban trans women and non-binary people from the sport.

They say there is ‘no evidence’ that trans women pose a safety risk to other female rugby players. Moreover they say it discriminates against vulnerable trans and non-binary people.

Last month a draft World Rugby document leaked that argued trans women shouldn’t be able to play alongside cis women. It claimed trans women had a ‘significant’ physical advantage.

However, it concluded that trans men could still compete with cis male players.

Now 84 leading academics – including from the fields of sport, public health and sociology – have criticized World Rugby’s plans. The Guardian reports the experts say in a joint letter:

‘We are opposed to World Rugby’s proposed ban of an entire population group from playing women’s rugby: non-binary people assumed male at birth and transgender women.

‘There is no peer-reviewed, scientific evidence to justify a ban which would only be harmful to trans and gender diverse people.’

World Rugby guidelines ‘fail’

The letter argues this is not about a ‘fringe population’. In evidence it cites an American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. It found 3.4% of American school students identify as trans or gender diverse, or they were ‘not sure’ about their gender identity.

The letter adds:

‘To develop appropriate guidelines requires ongoing work with transgender athletes and community representatives, and engagement with rigorous, peer-reviewed evidence. These guidelines fail on both accounts.’

However World Rugby claims its research is robust. It says trans women taking part in the sport leads to a 20% to 30% increase in injury risk.

And in a statement it adds:

‘From the outset, we have sought to balance inclusion, safety and fairness within the context of a physical sport based on strength, power, speed and contact.

‘However, the scientific medical evidence position regarding the impact of testosterone suppression for trans women athletes is compelling, the injury risk at the elite level is real, and should be tackled.’

Moreover they say it is ‘simply false’ to say their research hasn’t received peer review.

But the organization’s policy comes at a time when trans inclusion in sport is becoming a battleground.

Earlier this year, the UN Human Rights Commission criticized World Athletics, among others, for trans policies which it said were ‘stigmatizing, stereotyping, and discriminatory’.

Meanwhile LGBT+ campaigners criticized the US state of Idaho when it banned young trans women from interscholastic sports.

GSN has approached World Rugby with further questions and is awaiting a response.