LONDON, April 17 — Most female athletes support categorisation by biological sex rather than gender identity in women’s contact and endurance sports, in what is believed to be the largest survey to date on transgender inclusion.

Fifty-eight per cent of the 175 world-class, elite and national level female athletes supported that principle, except for precision sports such as archery.

That rose to 77 per cent among those defined as world-class athletes when talking about their own sport.

However, 81 per cent of all respondents said inclusivity for transgender athletes had to be improved, highlighting the difficult balancing act governing bodies face in squaring inclusion with fairness.


The survey, conducted by academics at Swansea University and the Manchester Metropolitan University Institute of Sport and published in the Journal of Sports Sciences on Wednesday, obtained the views of current and former athletes from a range of sports and countries.

They included 26 world champions, 22 Olympians — including two gold, two silver and three bronze medal winners — plus six Paralympians.

The international federations for athletics, cycling and swimming, three of the most high-profile Olympic sports, now bar anyone who has been through any part of male puberty from competing in the female category.


US transgender swimmer Lia Thomas is challenging the rules in her sport. Her legal team says World Aquatics’ rules are discriminatory.

The study also highlights how opinions vary depending on the sport an athlete competes in, the level that athlete is competing at and the stage of their career.

The large majority of retired athletes (83 per cent) and current Olympic athletes (64 per cent) believe sport should be categorised by biological sex.

But the percentage was much lower (32 per cent) among athletes from sports whose global federations are recognised by the International Olympic Committee but that are not currently part of the Summer or Winter Games.

“The motivations for elite and world-class athletes competing in the female category are not likely grounded in negativity towards transgender people, but more likely based on seeking fair competition and capacity to win,” the report said.

“These opinions further reflect that transgender inclusion is valued, but fairness must take priority for athletes in elite sport.

“It is crucial that governing bodies ensure policies and committee membership reflect the key stakeholders and understand that views differ amongst athlete groups and sports.”

It added: “Specific considerations are needed for the differences between those with the greatest potential for rewards such as world-class athletes and those that will not be directly affected by policy decisions such as retired athletes.” — AFP