Response to AIS Guidelines failing to protect women’s sport

The Australian Institute of Sport has continued the disgraceful tradition of Australian sporting bodies in refusing women and girls guaranteed single-sex competition by preferencing what they call ‘inclusion’, but which actually denies a level playing field for women and girls.

The actions of the AIS and Tennis Australia over the last week demonstrate that Australian sporting authorities are living in a bubble, determined not to listen to the many female athletes, experts and governing bodies around the world calling for the women’s single-sex category to be maintained and protected.

The AIS has thumbed its nose both at female athletes and at the progress in international sport towards protecting the female category to ensure fairness and safety for female athletes.

The only fair, logical and scientific approach to women’s sport is that is must be a single-sex category. Females are not simply males with low testosterone, and males with low testosterone are not female.

The practice of using testosterone limitation to regulate male participation in female sport has been discredited by scientific studies and rejected by World Athletics and World Aquatics. That’s for the simple reason that the advantages gained through male puberty do not disappear by reducing testosterone post-puberty.

I also note the belated confirmation in media reporting today that I was 100 per cent correct when I said that Australian sporting codes risk being accused of breaking the law and being taken to court if they offer guaranteed single-sex sport for women and girls by ensuring eligibility for female competition is based on sex. All those who sought to deny this was the case are now comprehensively proven wrong.

The ‘case-by-case’ assessment process which is promoted by the AIS and required by current law is not only illogical, it places enormous and unnecessary pressure on both officials and participants, as demonstrated by the recent example in Basketball Victoria. These AIS guidelines will only heap more pressure onto sports to make controversial decisions and risk having accusations of bigotry thrown at them every time they try to keep women’s sport fair. There will continue to be huge dissatisfaction and controversy around case-by-case assessments until sports realise that the only sensible rule is that males should not compete in the female category.

As I told the Senate this week, guaranteeing single-sex categories for women and girls does not prevent anyone playing sport. Single-sex female sport does not ‘ban’ or prevent anyone from competing. Sport can be more inclusive by ensuring they offer both single-sex sport for women and girls and a full range of other categories, such as Open categories, which ensure everyone can compete.