British Rowing restricts women’s category to athletes ‘assigned female at birth’

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British Rowing released new eligibility guidelines that will restrict transgender athletes from competing in women’s events in order to “guarantee fair and meaningful competition,” the sports governing body announced this week. 

The new rules will go into effect on Sept. 11 and will include policies for three categories: women’s, mixed, and an open category. 

A rowing oar with the national flag of the United Kingdom

A detail of a British oar ahead of the 2022 World Rowing Championships on Sept. 22, 2022 in Racice, Czech Republic. (Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)

“British Rowing is committed to promoting an environment in which rowing is accessible and inclusive and to ensuring that we provide opportunities and enjoyment for everyone,” the statement read. 

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“In order to achieve this in a fair manner, we need to establish conditions for competition that guarantee fair and meaningful competition by placing necessary and proportionate restrictions on eligibility. We already do so in lightweight and adaptive rowing categories, and we are now doing so in the women’s category.” 

According to the new policy, the athletes eligible for participation in the women’s competition must be “assigned female at birth.”

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A rower in action during the GB Rowing Trials and Small Boat British Championships at the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake on April 15, 2023 in Caversham, England. (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

“Only individuals who are assigned female at birth will be eligible to compete in competitions under British Rowing’s jurisdiction and/or be selected to represent Great Britain, or England, in international events,” the announcement read. 

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The open category will not have any restrictions for eligible athletes, but the mixed category must provide that “50% of crew are eligible from the women’s category stated above.” 

The policy change comes months after World Rowing announced a new policy that allows transgender athletes to participate in women’s events if their testosterone levels are below five nanomoles per liter for 12 months leading up to competition. 

The previous rule called for testosterone levels “less than 2.5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least the previous 24 months.” 

Great Britain Rowing logo seen on an athlete's suit

A detailed view of the Great Britain Rowing logo seen on an athlete’s suit as the Great Britain team prepare to compete in the Women’s Eight Heats during Day One of the European Rowing Championships 2021 at Lake Varese on April 9, 2021 in Varese, Italy. (Mattia Ozbot/Getty Images for British Rowing)

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Rowing has become the latest sport to restrict trans athletes’ participation. 

Last month, Union Cycliste Internationale announced that any cyclist who “transitioned after (male) puberty” will now be banned from competing in all international women’s events.

The decision followed a July 5 meeting, when the governing body found that the current “state of scientific knowledge” can not guarantee that any physical advantage would be eliminated after undergoing hormone therapy treatments.

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