British Rowing bans trans-identified males from competing in women’s events

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

British Rowing has adopted a policy limiting participation in a newly created women’s team to biological females. It is one of several sporting organizations to do so amid concerns about the fairness of trans-identified males competing in women’s sports.

The governing board announced Thursday that it was implementing a new policy on Competition Eligibility and Procedures, which is slated to take effect on Sept. 11.

The new policy outlines requirements for competing in three newly established categories: "Open," "Women’s" and "Mixed."

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All athletes, regardless of biological sex or self-declared gender identity, can compete in the Open category. However, for the Women's category, only people “assigned female at birth will be eligible to compete in competitions under British Rowing’s jurisdiction and/or be selected to represent Great Britain, or England, in international events.” For the Mixed category, competition organizers can offer competitions “at any level of competition, providing 50% of crew are eligible from the women’s category.”

The three categories only apply to competitive rowing, so trans-identified athletes can compete on sex-segregated teams at the recreational level based on their chosen gender identity.

“British Rowing is committed to promoting an environment in which rowing is accessible and inclusive and to ensuring that we provide opportunities and enjoyment for everyone,” the organization stated.

“In order to achieve this in a fair manner, we need to establish conditions for competition that guarantee fair and meaningful competition by placing necessary and proportionate restrictions on eligibility. We already do so in lightweight and adaptive rowing categories, and we are now doing so in the women’s category.”

British Rowing cited its new policy as consistent with findings of “extensive and ongoing research and consultation with stakeholders, the rowing community, academics, and other relevant organizations” as well as “scientific evidence.”

The policy itself acknowledges “significant advantages in size, strength, and power enjoyed (on average) by individuals assigned male at birth from puberty onwards, over individuals assigned female at birth.”

“This is due to much higher levels of androgenic hormones which can impact an individual’s success in rowing,” the policy added, while adding that "there are a number of additional variables that lend themselves to a competitor’s success which are not restricted to hormone levels alone."

The policy included a 2021 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) that affirmed: “the majority of the physiological/biological advantages brought about by male puberty are retained (either wholly or partially) by Transwomen post transition.”

Another study published in December 2020 in the BJSM found that trans-identified male athletes maintain an advantage over their biologically female counterparts even after a year of taking feminizing hormones.

British Rowing’s new policy comes as many other governing bodies regulating competitive sports have sought to ensure that female athletes have the opportunity for fair competition.

World Aquatics, which governs competitive swimming worldwide, announced last month that it was establishing an “open” category after previously amending its “gender inclusion policy” to prohibit biological males who began the process of transitioning from male to female after puberty from competing in women’s swimming.

Last year, the World Boxing Council signaled its intention to establish a separate category for trans-identified fighters after banning trans-identified male fighters from competing against women.

USA Powerlifting, another organization that has tried to restrict biological males who identify as females from competing against women, identified “increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue” as factors that give biological males an advantage over biological females in athletics.

While many organizations that govern competitive sports as well as 22 U.S. states have enacted policies restricting participation on women’s sports teams to biological females, several female athletes still find themselves competing against biological males.

Most notably, trans-identified swimmer Lia (Will) Thomas made national headlines for breaking women’s swimming records after joining the University of Pennsylvania women’s swimming team following three years of competition on the men’s team.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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