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At Last, An Official Body That Recognises Letting Trans Athletes Compete Against Women Is...

•, By Joanna Williams

In an almost unprecedented outbreak of common sense, the Sports Councils Equality Group has acknowledged that men and women are different – and concluded, rightly, that trans athletes cannot fairly compete against the latter.

When transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon (now Veronica Ivy) took to the podium after winning the 2018 women's world track championships, the differences between the competitors were clear to see. McKinnon is taller, broader and more muscular than the women lining up for silver and bronze medals.

Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard may not have won a medal at this year's Tokyo Olympics, but the women denied a place to make way for her inclusion would have had good reason to be angry. The barrel-chested Hubbard lived as a male for 35 years without once enjoying success in international weightlifting. It was only after transitioning in 2012 – still with an obviously male physique – that Hubbard began to win elite titles.

It is impossible to think that having a body which has passed through male puberty – complete with larger skeletal frame, increased lung capacity and greater muscle mass – does not give male-born athletes a physical advantage over females in most sports. Take legs. Women's legs are about 60% muscle. Men's legs, in comparison, are made up of roughly 80% muscle tissue. This means that, on average, men are likely to be stronger, faster and more powerful than women.

Oddly, many of sport's governing bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, have been all too content to ignore these basic biological differences. Members close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears, and pretend that an athlete's gender identity is far more important than their sex. They have shamefully maintained this delusion even when it has meant sacrificing women's ability to compete and – in the case of sports like Mixed Martial Arts and rugby – when it jeopardises women's safety.

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