The world governing body for rugby league has barred transgender women from participating in women’s international matches until further notice.
In a statement, the International Rugby League (IRL) has joined a growing number of regulatory bodies that have recently prohibited male-to-female transgender athletes from competing in women’s divisions, including FINA and the International Cycling Union (UCI).
“The IRL is continuing work to review and update rules about transgender participation in women’s international rugby league and will seek to use the upcoming World Cup to help develop a comprehensive inclusion policy,” IRL said.
“Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female (transwomen) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches,” IRL added.
The ban will be in effect for the Rugby League World Cup, which starts on October 15 in England.
According to IRL, it considered several relevant developments in world sport, not least of which was the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) publication of its November 2021 Framework on Fairness, Non-Discrimination, and Inclusion on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations, when it last reviewed transgender participation in international rugby league in January-February 2021.
Taking into account the differences in nature of each sport, the IOC concluded that it is the responsibility of each sport and its governing body to evaluate how an athlete may be at a disproportionate advantage relative to their peers.
Last year, World Rugby, rugby union’s governing body, stated that “on safety grounds at the international level of the game,” transgender women should not play women’s contact rugby.
However, the governing body’s advice was not binding, allowing national federations to implement their own grassroots policy.
More research was needed before finalizing a more thorough guideline, the IRL said in a statement on Tuesday, “in the interests of avoiding unnecessary welfare, legal, and reputational damage to International Rugby League tournaments, and those competing therein.”
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