The sports where trans athletes are banned or need permission to compete

The Independent takes a look at the rules for transgender athletes across global sports

Sonia Twigg
Tuesday 16 April 2024 09:02 BST
There are different rules for transgender athletes competing across different sports
There are different rules for transgender athletes competing across different sports (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The UK Government wants to ban transgender athletes from all elite women’s sporting events.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has written to sporting bodies, including the Football Association, and said they have a “duty” to take an “unambiguous position” on whether transgender athletes can compete.

It comes after transgender women were banned from playing in international competitions by World Netball, on the same day the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) put in the same restrictions in the United States.

The netball announcement was made with immediate effect under a new participation and inclusion policy issued on April 8, 2024. The move is significant with the opening ceremony of Paris Olympics just months away.

The International Olympic Committee policy permits each sporting authority to set its own regulations, with different situations at different governing bodies.

Here is a list of how each sport approaches the inclusion of transgender athletes:


Trans women are now banned from competing at international level.

The netball policy only relates to international competition, and national governing bodies are able to “modify or even not apply these guidelines” to leagues in their respective nations.

In the statement, the governing body said: “Following a detailed review of the science and consultation with experts and members, it has determined that international level women’s netball is a gender-affected activity and that a policy is required (to) ensure fairness and safety at this level of our sport.”

International Olympic Committee

The IOC, instead of having specific rules or regulations includes 10 guiding principles, but it states that “each international federation is responsible for setting eligibility rules for its sport, including the eligibility criteria that determine qualification for the Olympic Games.”


Female athletes who have undergone hormone therapy may participate in internal workouts, general practice and team activities but cannot take part in any external competition, while any athlete is permitted to take part in men’s sports.

Only students whose biological sex is female at birth can participate in their chosen sports - biological sex “can be supported by the birth certificate or a signed affidavit”.


In March 2023, World Athletics voted to ban transgender women from elite female competitions if they have undergone “male puberty”, although the governing body has not defined its definition of what it means to have “been through male puberty”.

Worth Athletics regulations have been adopted by England Athletics, who state on their website: “If your gender is different from the sex you were observed at birth, you are not allowed to compete in the female category from 1 April 2023 unless you are approved by UK Athletics as complying with the World Athletics Regulations to be able to compete in the female category.”


World Rugby stated in 2020 that transgender women would not be allowed to play elite women’s rugby, citing “significant” safety concerns. The governing body said at the time it had “concluded that safety and fairness cannot presently be assured for women competing against trans women in contact rugby”.

The guidelines have been adopted by the Rugby Football Union, and Rugby Football League, and came into place at the start of the 2022/23 season, with players only allowed to participate “if the sex originally recorded at birth is female”.

However the rules only apply to contact rugby, so touch rugby, which is played more socially, is allowed to include transgender players. The regulations come into place from under-12 level onwards.


Mixed football is allowed until the under-16 age group and under-16s are allowed to play in boys’ or girls’ teams regardless of their biological sex. After that age, players must apply to the FA and be approved to play in a team of their affirmed gender, and it will be treated by the governing body on a case-by-case basis.

The FA will consider “the safety of the applicant and fellow players” and “the need to ensure fair play and fair competition”, for both transgender men and women. For transgender women, the FA will look for medical records to demonstrate hormone therapy and blonde testosterone within “the natal female range for an appropriate length of time so as to minimise any potential advantage” and for hormone treatment to be “verified annually”.


Swimming’s world governing body, Fina, voted to ban trans women from elite female competitions if they had undergone any part of male puberty in 2022.

Fina president, Husain al-Musallam, said at the time: “We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at Fina competitions.”

Swim England announced a new policy in 2023, that from September, transgender or non-binary athletes must compete in the “open” category for all its events, and those born biologically female in a separate category.

However, transgender women can still self-identify in low-level events, for example, intra-club recreational races, but the timings will not count for Swim England rankings.


The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced in November 2023 that transgender women who had “been through any form of male puberty” would not be allowed to partake in international women’s cricket, but did not define its criteria for “male puberty”.

The ICC’s previous regulations had been based on testosterone levels. However, the England and Wales Cricket Board uses a “social” model, and trans women may compete in female-only competitions, leagues and matches according to certain conditions. This is different at elite level where trans women would have to write to the head of women’s domestic cricket and provide evidence, which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.


For British Cycling, transgender women, transgender men, those assigned male at birth and people who identify as non-binary can compete in an ‘open’ category, which has replaced the current ‘men’s’ category.

The ‘female’ category will remain for those whose biological sex at birth was female and transgender men yet to begin hormone therapy. Those whose sex was assigned female at birth can also compete in the ‘open’ category.

These rules are also upheld by the world governing body of cycling the Union Cycliste Internationale, who have the conditions at the elite level after updating their policy in summer 2023. Transgender women are permitted to compete as long as “they must not have experienced any part of male puberty either beyond Tanner Stage 2 of after age 12 (whichever comes first)” and that “since puberty they must have continuously maintained the concentration of testosterone in their serum below 2.5 nmol/L”.


As of 2022, World Triathlon stated that for a transgender woman to compete in the ‘female’ category, “the concentration of testosterone in her serum” has to be “less than 2.5 nmol/L for a period of at least 24 months” and that an athlete has not competed in the male category of triathlon, or associated events for four years previously.


British Rowing stated in August 2023 that only those who were “assigned female at birth” would be eligible to compete in the women’s category in international events.

These conditions were already adopted by the World Rowing Council, who introduced a by-law in Spring 2023, with the added statement: “One criterium in case of a gender transition is that the rower’s serum testosterone concentration has been less than 2.5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least the previous 24 months.”


The International Tennis Federation states in its policy, dated August 2023, that transgender women have to show that the testosterone in their serum “has been less than 5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 12 months.


The LPGA states that an athlete must have a minimum of four years from the first date of participation as a transgender athlete, and that “the applicant must have undergone gender reassignment surgery” before submitting an application for membership and that testosterone levels had been maintained for a year to “negate gender-related advantages in sports competitions”.


The WBC states that “there is no consensus whether a bout between a transgender woman against a cisgender (biological) woman is a fair bout between two equally matched competitors” and that it does not use testosterone levels.

However, USA boxing allows transgender women to compete in amateur events as long as they have completed gender reassignment surgery, have had quarterly hormone testing for four years and have testosterone levels in serum below 5 nmol/L for at least two years before the first competition.

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