What are the rules for transgender women in elite sport?

American swimmer Lia Thomas and British cyclist Emily Bridges

The participation of transgender people in elite sports has become a highly controversial issue.

The debate made headlines again on Sunday after swimming’s world governing body FINA voted to ban athletes who have gone through male puberty from racing in women’s events.

Many sports allow trans men to participate in men's competitions, but have more complex policies for trans women taking part in single-sex events.

ITV looks at the current policies on trans women are for major sports.


The IOC's most recent set of recommendations, released in November 2021, concluded there should be no presumption that trans athletes have an automatic advantage over their cisgender counterparts.

It also contradicted a previous IOC guideline, which said trans women should have testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles per litre for a 12-month period prior to competition.

Now, the IOC states sporting bodies should set a criteria based on "what unfair advantage means in their sport".

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Although many transgender women are now unable to compete in women's events, FINA has set up a working group with a view to establishing an open competition category, open to athletes “without regard to their sex, their legal gender, or their gender identity”.

FINA president Husain Al-Musallam said: “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.”


FINA’s announcement comes two weeks after cycling’s governing body, the UCI, voted to double the period of time before a rider transitioning from male to female can compete.

Riders were previously required to have testosterone levels below five nanomoles per litre (nmol/L) for a 12-month period prior to competition.

Under new regulations, which will be introduced by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) from July 1, the permitted level will be 2.5 nmol/L for a 24-month period. The previous policy had been under review after being brought to attention by British rider Emily Bridges, one of cycling’s most high-profile transgender competitors.


In 2019, World Athletics ruled that to participate in an international athletics competition trans women must have had testosterone levels below 5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 12 months. They then must maintain a testosterones level below 5 nmol/L while competiting.

World Athletics is reviewing this policy , according to The Times and Reuters, and is considering following FINA's recent rule change.


Fifa currently makes decisions on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration factors like hormone levels and medical history.

However, according to The Times and Reuters, Fifa is currently conducting a consultation on trans footballers. Senior figures in the organisation told The Times that players who have gone through male puberty would not be able to play in elite female competition, or only with greatly reduced testosterone levels.


The British Triathlon Federation (BTF) has become the first British sporting body to establish a separate category in which trans women will compete.

Transgender women athletes will not be able to compete in women's events and instead will do so in a new 'open category' for "all individuals including male, transgender and those non-binary who were male sex at birth," the BTF said.

The BTF said triathlon is a "gender-affected sport" as it announced the change for all competitors over the age of 12.

The new policy will take affect from January 1, 2023 and it will provide additional guidance later this year.