Triathlon has become the first British sport to establish a new ‘open’ category in which transgender athletes will compete.
The British Triathlon Federation confirmed that for athletes over the age of 12, women’s competitive events will be reserved “for those who are female at birth”.
The policy, which will start from January, will see an ‘open’ category “for all people, including men, transgender [men and women], and those who were non-binary who were male at birth.”
It will apply to all events where prizes, times or rankings are at stake, even at the grassroots level of the sport.
Triathlon is an increasingly popular multi-discipline participation sport in the UK comprising running, swimming and cycling.
“When it comes to competitive activity, fairness is paramount,” said Andy Salmon, chief executive of British Triathlon. “Our sport is affected by gender.
“We believe this is the right policy for triathlon in Britain and the right time to publish it. We have taken legal advice and are confident that it is legally sound.”
British Triathlon said the new approach followed a survey of more than 3,000 members that found 80% supported the two categories.
The new policy replaces existing guidelines established in 2018, which allow trans women to compete against athletes if they have suppressed their testosterone.
Salmon said he was “not aware” of any elite transgender triathletes in Britain, but added: “We didn’t want to be a governing body waiting for that to be a problem before trying to fix it.”
“We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the day after, and we wanted to be ready for that day.”
Last week, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, following a similar sentiment from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, told the heads of UK sporting bodies that “competitive and elite women’s sport should be reserved for the female-born persons.
However, Salmon said her new policy was “free from political pressure” and predated Dorries’ comments. Several British sporting bodies are reviewing their eligibility policies for transgender people.
The new focus on British triathlon also comes just weeks after Fina, swimming’s world governing body, voted to bar transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s races if they have gone through any part of the male puberty process.
It also aims to establish an ‘open’ category in competitions, for swimmers whose gender identity is different from their birth sex. Former Great Britain swimmer Sharron Davies, who has argued against transgender participation in elite women’s swimming, welcomed Fina’s decision. However, Britain’s Olympic diving champion Tom Daley said he was “furious” at the new policy.
World Athletics chairman Lord Coe has hinted that his sport will take a similar approach later this year.
And the UCI, cycling’s governing body, updated its transgender guidelines to double the length of time before a rider transitioning from male to female can compete in women’s races.
Neither British Swimming nor British Cycling have announced any subsequent changes to their policies in line with their international governing bodies.
British Triathlon said in a statement: “Our policy is that triathlon is a sport for all and transphobic behavior will not be tolerated.
“We started this process in late 2021 and went through an independent consultation period…this ensured that, alongside the latest research, we heard from our community, key groups and individuals about their views and experiences.
“We can easily and reliably look at the advantages, in terms of performance outcomes and physiology/biology, that athletes who are male at birth have over athletes who are female at birth. We are also an invented sport of three different disciplines, each of which has a long history with clear differences between the performance achieved by men and women.
“We will now take the time to develop guidance for event organizers, clubs, officials and coaches to share this fall, before the policy goes into effect on January 1, 2023.
“British Triathlon wants to make clear that it does not tolerate transphobic behaviour, harassment, bullying or hate speech of any kind. Anyone commenting on our policy, should do so with empathy and consideration for all of those who have been involved and who may still have questions and concerns about how the policy impacts them.”
Last month, rugby league’s governing body also banned transgender women from women’s internationals while it does further research on its inclusion policy to “balance the individual’s right to participate… against perceived risk to other participants”.