Transgender women still running and winning as females six months since ban

Female athletes poised on starting blocks
Rules to prevent those who have been through male puberty from competing in women’s athletics are facing a backlash - Getty Images/Mike Powell

Transgender women are being allowed to run – and win – in the female category of races almost six months after they were banned from doing so, a Telegraph Sport investigation has found.

Rules brought in to prevent those who have been through male puberty from competing in women’s athletics are facing a major backlash amid serious concerns about the effectiveness, and enforcement, of them.

It follows an investigation by Telegraph Sport into the impact of a ban introduced by UK Athletics this year, which has found:

  • A team featuring a transwoman was awarded first place in a mass participation race in contravention of the new rules

  • An exemption for events entered before the ban began has allowed transgender runners to continue to compete in the female category until at least December

  • Race cancellations could further extend UKA’s so-called “transitional arrangements”

  • Rival runners fear “death threats” from the pro-transgender lobby if they speak out publicly

  • Transwomen face being officially labelled as male while UKA consults over the introduction of an open category

‌March saw UKA become the latest sports governing body to impose a ban on transwomen competing in the female category of any event under its jurisdiction.

The rules, which came into force almost immediately, controversially included an exemption for events for which places had already been secured but also stated those affected “may not accept any prize and their results will not count towards any record, qualifying time or mark, or team scoring”.

This was recently contravened when a team featuring a transwoman – who the Telegraph is choosing not to name – was awarded first place during a running competition last month.

When approached about the results of an event that can still be found online, the race director put them down to an honest mistake and said he was in the process of correcting them.

He said that the runner in question had entered the female category “a couple of weeks” before the UKA ban came into force, adding: “It would’ve been easier if she’d entered afterwards.” The rules were correctly followed when it came to individual prizes after the runner recorded the second-fastest women’s time and was duly excluded from the presentation ceremony.

The race director also said the runner’s time was not initially included in the women’s results published online but that it was later added after she protested and they now list her as second-fastest female.

The race director blamed the controversy surrounding the runner’s participation as a woman on “confusion” caused by being forced to honour her pre-existing entry.

Rivals of the runner contacted by the Telegraph also denounced UKA’s so-called “transitional arrangements”, which has allowed her to enter the female category of races as far in the future as December.

Indeed, many events open their entries a year in advance, effectively delaying any blanket ban for another six months.

In addition to this are the potential implications of a race being cancelled for any reason and existing entries being honoured for the following year, a common practice in mass-participation running.

‘I have got to be careful of my safety’

All this has compounded the anger of those still forced to compete alongside transgender women but who fear the consequences of speaking out publicly.

“This is the unfairness of it all,” a rival of the runner whose team was wrongly awarded first place last month said.

“I want to talk about it – and I really do. I know people have had death threats [online from pro-transgender lobbyists].”

She added: “I’ve got to be careful of my safety.”

She also said that although her transgender opponent had been banned from reaping the rewards of continuing to race in the female category, she feared the transitional arrangements risked harming her own hopes of doing so.

That included when it came to selection for England Athletics’ Masters competitions, the qualification criteria for which includes finishing first, second or third in officially published results that do not currently disclose whether a runner is transgender.

“It sounds very trivial but it is actually very frustrating because I work hard and have aimed to be in the top 100 of my age group for women nationally,” she said, before questioning “how many other transgender males-to-females are being classed in these results?”

She added: “I train incredibly hard. I do 15 hours of running and training – and things like that – a week. I can’t compete with somebody who is a man. And you sometimes think, ‘Why do I bother?’”

Stressing she had nothing against her transgender rival personally, she said she had sympathy for the latter being otherwise forced to race in a category that would currently see her labelled as a male.

‘They let us down as women’

She instead directed her anger at the transitional arrangements themselves, claiming the authorities had “let us down as women, that they haven’t helped sort this out, got a category sorted – to protect transgender as well”.

When contacted by the Telegraph, England Athletics said it was “highly unlikely” a transgender woman’s results would hinder a rival’s Masters selection and that it had “processes in place to check eligibility”.

UKA, meanwhile, acknowledged that “elongated entry periods” for licensed events meant there was always the prospect of its transitional arrangements impacting upon the sport for some time and said that “anyone with a query or concern” could contact its duty of care team on

The governing body, which said upon announcing its new transgender rules in March that it would work to develop a more detailed policy that could include changing the male category to an open one, added: “UKA are commissioning an academic institution to lead and carry out a consultation with transgender athletes and advocacy groups.

“The aim is to determine how the sport of athletics can be as inclusive and welcoming as possible for transgender athletes within the framework of the World Athletics Regulations. The results of this consultation will also be considered during the creation of the Transgender Policy for the sport of athletics in the UK.”

The detailed policy could come into force in March but whether that finally spells the end of the transitional arrangements remains to be seen.

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