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World Triathlon announces “fair, but inclusive” Transgender Policy

New policy allows transgender athletes to compete in women's events four years after they have competed as a male

Photo by: Tommy Zaferes/ World Triathlon

Last month British Triathlon followed international swimming federation FINA’s lead by barring transgender and non-binary athletes who were male at birth from competitions, requiring athletes to compete in one of two categories, Female or Open.

Today World Triathlon announced a considerably more inclusive transgender policy, which states that:

To compete in the female category in an Elite or Age-Group triathlon competition, a Transgender athlete must demonstrate that the concentration of testosterone in the athlete’s serum has been less than 2.5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 24 months. Also, at least 48 months must have elapsed since the Transgender athlete has competed as a male in any sporting competition.

This means that as long as an athlete hasn’t competed as a male for four months and has displayed reduced levels of testosterone for two years, they can compete at triathlon events.

After the controversy that surrounded transgender swimmer Lia Thomas’ win at the NCAA championships, FINA enacted rules that barred transgender women from competing unless they had started treatments to suppress production of testosterone before they turned 12. “Scientists believe the onset of male puberty gives transgender women a lasting, irreversible physical advantage over athletes who were female at birth,” the New York Times reported in a story about the decision. The decision came in the aftermath of the controversy over swimmer Lia Thomas, a transgender athlete who won the 500 yard freestyle event at the NCAA Championships this year.

British Triathlon followed that approach.

“Where this is competitive activity, fairness is paramount,” Andy Salmon, British Triathlon CEO told the BBC. “Our sport is gender-affected. We believe this is the right policy for triathlon in Great Britain, and the right time to publish it. We have taken legal advice and are confident it’s legally robust.”

All but two members of World Triathlon’s Executive Board – vice president Ian Howard and president of the Athletes Committee Tamas Toth – voted in favour of the new policy.

“We have been studying this matter for over a year, we have listened to the voices of all World Triathlon stakeholders, and I can only thank all the Committees and Commissions for the detailed work carried out by them to inform this policy,” said World Triathlon president and IOC member Marisol Casado. “We are a small International Federation, but one that has always had inclusion and gender balance in our DNA. The Policy that we have just approved shows that we are prioritizing the fairness principle but showing inclusiveness. It is fully aligned with the IOC’s recommendation, and similar to what other IFs have done in the last months. We will of course monitor the situation and the evolution of this policy, and we are open to reviewing and discussing it as much as necessary over time, as this subject is still evolving and we need to be flexible.”

The new policy applies to all World Triathlon events, which means that races organized by British Triathlon can still run with its new open/ women categories.

Triathlon Canada recently held a summit with its provincial members in Edmonton and the transgender policy was part of the discussions. “We are also participating in the world being done by World Triathlon on the development of a policy at the international level,” Triathlon Canada told us in last month, so we anticipate it will announce its own policy soon.