Swimming, rugby, athletics: the sports world is taking up the issue of transgender people

From swimming pools to rugby pitches, via athletics tracks, the world of sport is seizing on the issue of transgender athletes… to postpone it until later. On Tuesday June 21, the International Rugby League Federation (IRL) announced in a press release that transgender people could not “not participate in international women’s rugby matches” as long as one “full inclusion policy” would not have been started.

Although this decision prohibits transgender players from playing in the next Women’s World Cup in the discipline scheduled for October and November in England, the IRL expressed “his belief that rugby league is a game for everyone and that everyone can play our sport”.

Between inclusion and sports equity

Between the inclusion of transgender people and the guarantee of sporting equity for athletes born male and who have become female, while ensuring “so that everyone benefits from a fair hearing”, the body felt it needed further consultation and research to reach a decision, hoped “in 2023”.

His statements come two days after another half-hearted announcement, coming from swimming. At the end of an extraordinary congress on Sunday, and while the long course world championships are being disputed this week in Budapest (Hungary), the International Swimming Federation (Fina) has scheduled the opening of a category reserved for transgender swimmers, on which a ” work group “. “I don’t want an athlete to be told they can’t compete at the highest level,” declared its president, Husain Al Musallam, on Sunday June 19.

At the same time, the Fina decided that athletes born male and who became female could only compete in female categories, or validate female world records, if they became female before puberty. According to its medical committee – one of three commissioned by Fina along with groups of lawyers and sportsmen – transgender women retain “bigger lungs and hearts, longer bones, bigger feet and hands”which are not lost “with the suppression of hormones”, giving them an edge over other born female swimmers.

For athletics, “biology trumps gender”

While Fina’s speech comes three months after American student Lia Thomas became the first transgender swimmer to win a university title, sparking widespread controversy, it is also part of the reflection carried out since last summer. by the International Olympic Committee. At the time, he had left it to the discretion of each sport to assess the possible “disproportionate advantage” athletes who have become transgender.

In athletics, transgender women must present, over a period of at least twelve months preceding a competition, a sufficiently low level of testosterone, a hormone which plays a major role in the development of muscle mass and thus conditions power or speed. of these athletes.

“If we need to adjust the protocols in the future, we will,” said the president of the International Athletics Federation, Sebastian Coe, on Sunday in Budapest, stating that if he had to choose between ” equity “ and ” inclusion “he would line up “always on the side of fairness”: “We have always believed, and we constantly repeat, that biology trumps gender and we will continue to review our rules in this direction. »



The Djokovic case raises the question of the vaccination status of athletes

The joy of the world number one in tennis was short-lived. Tuesday, January 4, a smiling Novak Djokovic posed on the tarmac of an airport, ready to fly to Melbourne. The man with the 20 Grand Slam titles including nine on Australian soil – was pleased to have obtained a medical exemption to be able to play the Australian Open, from January 17 to 30. The Serb was disillusioned when he arrived at Melbourne airport the next day. After detaining the player for several hours, the Australian authorities finally canceled his visa, compromising his participation in the first Grand Slam tournament of the season.

“Mr. Djokovic did not provide the appropriate information to enter Australia”, explained Greg Hunt, the Australian Minister of Health, Wednesday evening. According to the local daily The Age, he would not have completed the correct form for the type of visa he requested. The decision of the Australian authorities comes in any case at the end of two days of imbroglio around the vaccination situation of Novak Djokovic. The Serbian player, openly hostile to vaccination, has never communicated on his vaccination status.

“The world has suffered enough like this not to follow the rules”

The vagueness surrounding the granting of a medical exemption to Novak Djokovic has not failed to revive the debate on the vaccination of athletes. “The only thing clear to me is that if you are vaccinated you can play the Australian Open and everywhere else. (…) I think that if Novak wanted it, he would play in Australia without problem ”, Rafael Nadal reacted on Thursday, on the sidelines of the Melbourne tournament in which he takes part, adding that “The world has suffered enough like this not to follow the rules.”

→ DEBATE. Covid-19: should vaccination be made compulsory?

If other renowned athletes, like Kylian Mbappé, have shown themselves to be fervent activists for vaccination, others have expressed their reluctance towards vaccines. This is the case with NBA superstar Kyrie Irving. Refusing to be vaccinated, the basketball player of the Brooklyn Nets has missed 35 games this season … before returning to the workforce at the request of his leaders.

A question of ethics

For their part, the Australian authorities do not seem willing to grant such a privilege to Novak Djokovic. Australian Prime Minister himself Scott Morisson demanded that the Serbian player provide the evidence justifying the exemption, otherwise “He will return home in the first plane”. “There will be no special rule for Novak Djokovic”, he insisted.

“The Australian government is sending a message to its people: the athlete, even if it is Djokovic, is a citizen who is subject to the same rules as the others”, observes William Gasparini, sociologist specializing in sports issues at the University of Strasbourg. “The particular health and political context of Melbourne also explains the attitude of the public authorities”, he adds. An exception would probably have been very badly perceived by the population in a city which, with more than 262 days of confinement, holds the world record in the matter.

→ ANALYSIS. Beijing Winter Olympics: athletes anticipate the Games under cover

For the sociologist, vaccination is also a question of ethics: “We consider that high-level athletes, because of what they represent, have a duty to set an example. “ Proof that this exemplarity counts in the eyes of the public, Buffalo Bills player Cole Beasley was booed by his own supporters after publicly expressing his refusal to be vaccinated.

Vaccination pass

Ethical question or not, health measures are being reinforced all over the planet, tightening the noose around recalcitrant athletes. In France, the bill transforming the health pass into a vaccination pass was adopted at first reading on Thursday, January 6. “The obligation to present a vaccination pass is based on the place frequented, recalls Me Gautier Kertudo, lawyer specializing in sports law. Therefore, it applies in the same way to athletes and supporters. “

→ ANALYSIS. Delayed in the Assembly, the law on the vaccine pass continues its path

However, exceptions could exist with regard to certain sporting events. According to The Parisian, a tournament like Roland-Garros could set up a “Strict sanitary bubble” rather than requiring a full immunization schedule from participating athletes. An exemption that would save Novak Djokovic a lot of trouble. For now, the Serbian champion has obtained a suspension of his expulsion from Australian territory. The player should be fixed on his fate on Monday January 10, date of the hearing.