World Triathlon’s new policy on eligibility for the women’s category is a disappointment. Allowing males into the female category is not compatible with fairness for female athletes.
In its statement, the President says that World Triathlon “has always had inclusion and gender balance in our DNA” and that the policy “shows that we are prioritizing the fairness principle but showing inclusiveness.” This “but” is significant. World Triathlon knows fairness does not permit inclusion in the female category of post-pubertal males. Sport achieves inclusion via categories: age, sex, Paralympic; not by including some older athletes into U14s or some able-bodied athletes into Para or some males into female categories.
The Consortium on Female Sport wishes to point out that by not guaranteeing sex-based eligibility guidelines, World Triathlon is purposefully imposing an exclusionary factor upon its female athletes. Every male athlete allowed to self-identify into the female category will be excluding female athletes from placing and earning prizes. Furthermore, competition records in the female category will be set by people who have the advantage of male puberty, putting them beyond the reach of female competitors in the future.
We note that several transgender athletes have been consulted but not, it seems, female athletes. Yet it is the eligibility for the female category which is being changed. We also note that the president of the Athletes Committee Tamas Toth voted against the new policy. So athletes did not consent.
At a time when many national and international federations, including some national triathlon federations, are pushing to protect female sports, we would have expected World Triathlon to keep pace. In 2020 World Rugby became the first international sports body to ban male players from the women’s competitions, given that those who had gone through male puberty are “stronger by 25% to 50%, are 30% more powerful, 40% heavier, and about 15% faster than biological females”. Both FINA and British Triathlon have recently followed the lead of World Rugby, recognizing the need to protect women’s sport.
We note that in the recent World Triathlon Cup held in Pontevedra, the men’s performances were 8.5-11.3% faster than those of the women. How can World Triathlon guarantee that the transition parameters allowed in its new policy will completely mitigate this performance gap? All evidence indicates that it will not and the female athletes will be forced to race against someone who has a competitive advantage greater than the boost obtained by a female who is doping.
Which scientific studies were used to justify this policy? All studies that we have seen show that no testosterone level is capable of undoing what male puberty did to the body, and therefore, no testosterone level is capable of suppressing the male advantage.
Given that most of the athletes born female who identify as “men” or “non-binary” voluntarily remain in the women’s category, your new World Triathlon policy will also be putting them at a disadvantage. In other words, male-born trans athletes will lead to exclusion from podium places and rankings of trans athletes who were born female.
In summary, this new World Triathlon policy ensures overt discrimination against female-born athletes irrespective of how they identify.
The solution is simple: competing strictly in accordance with biological sex maximizes inclusion and protects against such discrimination. All athletes are capable of competing within their sex-based categories irrespective of self-declared identity or ideology. Maintaining sex-based categories enables female athletes to enjoy fair competition with equal opportunity to access and participate in sport; any other approach results in a sporting environment that is not “inclusive” for the female triathletes. Alternatively, World Triathlon can follow British Triathlon in adopting Open and Female categories. It is only the female category which needs to be exclusive, with eligibility limited to those born female. Men do not need to exclude people of either sex or any identity from their race category.
As the international governing body of triathlon, World Triathlon has the responsibility to ensure fairness in competition, making triathlon truly inclusive for all and offering equal opportunities to competitors of both sexes, according to Fundamental Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, the International Bill of Human Rights and the Article 10(g) of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The Consortium on Female Sport calls on World Triathlon to rescind this new policy and create a better one that is based on science in order to preserve and protect the female category.
About The Consortium on Female Sport The Consortium on Female Sport is an international campaign group advocating for the preservation of the female sports category. It is founded on the principle that fairness and safety for female athletes in sport is ensured by having a dedicated category for those born female*.
[*Definition: “Female athlete” is a competitor who is biologically female and has not therefore experienced male puberty.] The Consortium is a non-partisan, single-issue collective of women’s sports advocates from across the political spectrum. Membership or partnerships within The Consortium in no way indicates political affiliation with fellow members regarding any other topic of political concern.
Our Founding Members The Consortium includes campaign groups from the USA, Canada, France, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, and the UK.
On Being Consulted – Policy discussion on eligibility in women’s sports pertaining to any level (community to elite) and/or involving any jurisdiction MUST involve women who advocate for or who work or participate in female sport and include meaningful consultation with female athletes from the sport(s) in question.
On Sex-based Human Rights – Sex equality matters in all aspects of life, including in sport. In accordance with the tenets of the International Bill of Human Rights, the intent of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, Article 10(g)), and the precepts of the Women’s Declaration (Article 7), women and girls have a right to access and participate in sports in a manner that is fair, safe and without discrimination. To be denied this right is discrimination on the basis of sex.
On the Olympic Charter - The Consortium agrees with “Fundamental Principle 6” of the IOC Charter that there should be no discrimination against female athletes on the basis of sex.
On the 2021 IOC Framework - In keeping with IOC Framework principle 6.2.a, the Consortium agrees that International Federations should develop disciplines, events, scoring systems or other mechanisms to include everyone, while providing a dedicated female category.
Contact: Linda Blade, PhD Kinesiology, Sport Performance Professional Twitter: @female_sport Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.sportsconsortium.org