Transgender people could not participate in women’s international rugby league matches until an improved “full inclusion policy”announced on Tuesday, June 21, the International Rugby League (IRL), which governs international rugby league.
Until this policy is finalized, “players changed from male to female cannot participate in women’s international rugby matches”the IRL said in a statement.
This announcement comes two days after that of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) which decided to set up a “open category” to allow transgender athletes to compete separately. Under these rules, the men’s competition would be open to all. In contrast, male-born athletes who became female could only compete in women’s FINA categories, or set women’s world records, if they became female before puberty.
The FINA decision came as the swimming world was rocked by a controversy over American transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. The 22-year-old student, born male, had become the first transgender swimmer to win a university title in the spring. His victory in mid-March in the final of the 500 yards (457 meters) had opened a wide debate, his detractors believing that having competed as a man in the past, Lia Thomas benefited from an unfair physiological advantage.
“Anyone can practice our sport”
IRL authorities have said they need further consultation and research to finalize a new policy for 2023, citing a “legal, reputational and welfare risk” game and players. They pointed to the decision taken last year by the International Olympic Committee to let each sport determine how athletes could have a “disproportionate advantage”.
“The IRL reaffirms its belief that rugby league [à XIII] is a game for everyone and everyone can play our sport”, she said. The IRL has proven that it has a responsibility to balance each player’s right to participate against the risk perceived by other players as well as “to ensure that everyone receives a fair hearing”.
The governing body said it is working with the eight finalists of the Women’s Rugby League World Cup 2021 for a “future policy for the inclusion of transgender women in 2023”as a tenant account of ” unique characteristics “ rugby league.