UK Athletics want to prevent transgender athletes from competing in women's category
(Reuters) -UK Athletics want the women's category to be reserved for those who were female at birth to ensure fair competition while transgender athletes can compete in an "open" category alongside the men, the governing body said on Friday.
However, UKA said its hands are tied as they cannot prevent transgender athletes from competing in the women's category unless the government changes the law.
Transgender rights become a major talking point in recent months as sports seek to balance inclusivity while ensuring there is no unfair advantage, with LGBTQI advocacy groups saying excluding trans athletes amounts to discrimination.
"UKA believes that efforts should be made to fairly and safely include transgender women in an 'open' category, which would replace the current male category and be open to athletes of all sexes," it said in a statement on Friday.
"(Efforts should be made to) reserve the women's category for competitors who were female at birth, so that they can continue to compete fairly."
But according to the Gender Recognition Act, they are duty bound to "treat those trans women with a Gender Recognition Certificate as female for all purposes".
"UKA therefore requests that a legislative change is made to extend the sporting exemption," it added.
"This would enable UKA and other sporting bodies the ability to ensure the women's category can be lawfully reserved for female competitors."
The debate surrounding transgender athletes intensified last year when University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women's 500-yard freestyle.
Swimming's world governing body FINA voted to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women's competitions, which led to several other sporting bodies doing the same.
"The statement we are issuing today demonstrates the challenge UKA and other sporting governing bodies are faced with at this time," UKA Chair Ian Beattie said.
"Therefore we are calling for a change in legislation that will provide clarity for all and ensure the women's category can be lawfully reserved for female at birth competitors."
World Athletics said it is consulting with member federations on a proposal that would impose more stringent testosterone limits on transgender women athletes competing in women's track and field events.
However, UKA said they did not agree with the use of testosterone suppression for transgender women.
"Scientific evidence... is that transgender women retain a testosterone/puberty advantage over biological females regardless of the reduction of post puberty testosterone levels," UKA added.
"There is currently no scientifically robust, independent research showing that all male performance advantage is eliminated following testosterone suppression."
Last year, England's rugby governing bodies restricted transgender participation in the domestic game, recommending that only players recorded as female at birth be allowed to play in the women's category.
Advocates for transgender inclusion say that there are relatively few trans women athletes and that not enough studies have been done on the impact of transition on physical performance.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru;Editing by Christian Radnedge)