British Rowing bans trans women from competing in female category

(L-R) Jessica Marie Leyden and Lola Anderson and Georgina Megan Brayshaw and Lucy Glover all of Great Britain compete in Womens Quadruple Sculls Final A during 2022 World Rowing Championships. (Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)

British Rowing has banned trans women from competing in its female category.

The sport’s governing body has announced that only athletes who were “assigned female at birth” will be allowed to enter female races at the elite level.

The policy, which is set to come in to force on 11 September, will apply to all those representing Great Britain or England in international events, including the Olympics and Paralympics.

An “open” category will be made available to trans and non-binary rowers, as well a “mixed” category, providing half the crew meet the women’s category guidelines, according to the BBC.

Back in May, British Rowing asked its 31,500 members to cast votes on a preferred trans policy. The options included a continuation of existing rules – under which trans women were eligible to compete if their testosterone was under five nanomoles per litre – reducing the threshold to 2.5 nanomoles per litre as per World Rowing’s policy, or only allowing “athletes who have been declared female at birth to compete in the female category”. 

British Rowing said the ban followed “extensive and ongoing research and consultation”.

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In a statement, the organisation said it is “committed to promoting an environment in which rowing is accessible and inclusive, and to ensuring that we provide opportunities and enjoyment for everyone.”

It continued: “In order to achieve this in a fair manner, we need to establish conditions… that guarantee fair and meaningful competition, by placing necessary and proportionate restrictions on eligibility.”

In October last year, British Rowing updated its trans and non-binary inclusion policy for competition to require trans women in the female category to have a “testosterone concentration” of “less than five nmol/l continuously for a period of at least the previous 12 months”. 

The change in policy follows leading bodies such as World Athletics opting to completely ban trans women from competing in the category that aligns with their gender, and others, such as swimming body FINA introducing strict rules that effectively ban trans women.