Nadine Dorries says 'we can’t pretend sex doesn’t have impact on athletic performance' in trans sport row

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries says the issue has been "ducked" for too long


Nadine Dorries has said sport in the UK must follow in the footsteps of swimming, ensuring only athletes born female are able to compete in female sporting competitions.

The swimming world governing body FINA, announced on June 19 that athletes who had been through any element of male puberty would be barred from elite female competition.

In a meeting this afternoon with representatives from football, cricket, rugby, tennis, athletics and other sports, Ms Dorries emphasised how in her view national governing bodies had to act, arguing it was "inherently unfair" for women and teenage girls to compete against someone who was born biologically male.

She tweeted: “Just met with sport governing bodies to discuss trans participation.

“This is a complex and emotionally charged issue – but it’s one that has been ducked for too long. We can’t pretend that sex doesn’t have a direct impact on a person’s athletic performance.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries believed only athletes born female should compete in female sporting competitions
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries believed only athletes born female should compete in female sporting competitions

“Asking women and teenage girls to compete against someone who was biologically born a male is inherently unfair.

“So today I have made my position absolutely clear: I expect sporting bodies to follow the policy that competitive women’s sport must be reserved for people born of the female sex.

“We need to do this in a way that protects and shows compassion to all athletes – including the creation of open categories. But fairness in competitive sport has to take priority above all else.

Olympic diver Tom Daley is 'furious' at FINA's decision
Olympic diver Tom Daley is 'furious' at FINA's decision

“Some clear direction is long overdue – not only for athletes, but also event organisers and fans. There is evidently more to do to make sport fairer for female athletes.”

Olympic gold medal-winning diver Tom Daley said he is "furious" at FINA's decision.

The 28-year-old, who came out as gay in 2013, told inews: “Like most queer people, anyone that’s told that they can’t compete or can’t do something they love just because of who they are, it’s not on.

“It’s something I feel really strongly about. Giving trans people the chance to share their side.”

Policies on inclusion of transgender competitors in elite-level sport are usually set out by an individual sport's international federation, as in the case of FINA.

A cap on an athletes testosterone levels is in place in track and field, only allowing athletes to compete in female events if their levels are suitable, but President of World Athletics, Lord Coe, hinted at tougher rules as he welcomed FINA’s stance and insisted his job was to “protect the integrity of women’s sport”.

Football’s world governing body FIFA said last week it was reviewing its policies.

The Football Association and British Cycling are following suit, reviewing their transgender policies with regards to grassroots competition.

Governing bodies are conducting their own research on the impact of athletes’ sex at birth and gender reassignment on athletic performance. UK Sport and Sport England will coordinate the process, and reporting back on progress later in the summer.

Guidelines published by the UK’s sports councils in September 2021 made it clear that it was not always possible to balance inclusion with fairness where sex can have an impact on sporting results.

FINA’s ruling came after Lia Thomas became the first transgender swimmer to win a major US national college title in March. She will now be ineligible to compete in elite women’s events.