Rugby league joins swimming in banning transgender athletes

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The sport of rugby league on Tuesday joined swimming by banning transgender players from international competition, as world athletics said it was also considering a rule change.

Rugby league authorities said transgender athletes would be “unable to play” in international matches while they undertook consultations and research to finalise a new policy for 2023.

They cited the “welfare, legal and reputational risk” to the game and players in taking their decision.

The 13-a-side game’s governing body acted a day after international swimming effectively banned transgender athletes from women’s races, placing them instead in a new “open category”.

World athletics hinted of tougher policies on transgender athletes taking part in women’s events, with president Sebastian Coe saying fairness is more important than inclusion.

Sports are drawing up new regulations on participation after the International Olympic Committee last year announced guidelines while asking federations to produce their own ‘sport-specific’ rule.

The issue has ignited into a fractious debate between those fighting for trangender athletes’ rights to compete freely as women and those arguing they enjoy an unfair physiological advantage.

The International Rugby League’s announcement means transgender athletes will be banned from this year’s Women’s Rugby League World Cup in England in November.

“The IRL reaffirms its belief that rugby league is a game for all and that anyone and everyone can play our sport,” it said in a statement.

But the sport said it had to balance each player’s right to take part against the perceived risk to other players “and to ensure all are given a fair hearing”.

The rugby league governing body said it would work with the eight nations taking part in the Women’s Rugby League World Cup for a “future trans women inclusion policy in 2023”, taking into account the “unique characteristics” of rugby league. —APP

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