British Rowing at war as chair hits out at open transgender policy

British Rowing at war as chair hits out at open transgender policy - GETTY IMAGES
British Rowing at war as chair hits out at open transgender policy - GETTY IMAGES

British Rowing is at loggerheads over its new transgender policy after its own chairman went public with his opposition to it and warned transwomen could “legally dope” to win “easy gold” at the next Olympics.

Telegraph Sport can reveal that Mark Davies, the son of the celebrated former BBC commentator Barry Davies, and other senior figures at the governing body argued against the introduction of a policy that allows transwomen to continue racing in women’s events.

That policy, which has provoked a major backlash led by tennis legend Martina Navratilova and other campaigners, was announced last week following a fractious board meeting at which it was ultimately backed by the majority of directors.

Davies subsequently took to Twitter to reveal he supports a blanket ban on transwomen rowing in women’s events and to state he had been lobbying World Rowing (WR) to introduce such a policy.

Telegraph Sport has been told his posts have compounded boardroom divisions at British Rowing split largely along gender lines, with non-executive chairman Davies and other male directors having argued against a policy drawn up to replace one in force since 2016.

The previous policy allowed transwomen to compete in women’s races provided the testosterone in their blood serum did not exceed 10 nanomoles per litre, with the new policy halving that to 5nmol/L.

That fell short of the kind of blanket bans imposed recently by the likes of swimming’s world governing body, FINA, and British Triathlon.

The new policy provoked a Twitter storm which Davies attempted to quell by revealing he had lobbied World Rowing on the issue, adding: “I’m on record for wanting there to be Open and Women’s categories in line with FINA, and the strongest voices I have heard in support of other options have been female.”

He also wrote: “Currently, with more than 18 months until Paris, a country so-minded could find 8 trans athletes, ‘legally dope’ to reduce testosterone levels below required levels, and boat a women’s 8+ that consisted entirely of said trans athletes to take easy gold.”

Davies did attempt to justify the new policy, which he said would be reviewed within a year.

“Our 2016 policy was less restrictive than the new one, and desperately needed updating,” he wrote. “The Board was advised, and concluded, that going against WR policy was problematic. You can argue the rights and wrongs of that, but either way, key is that we will review this within a year.”

He admitted the board’s refusal to diverge from World Rowing’s trans policy had been the “majority view”, with Telegraph Sport told he was among those to have disagreed.

That view also held sway despite British Triathlon having imposed a blanket ban when its own international federation has yet to do so.

British Rowing said: “A collective decision was made by the board and the policy was updated in line with that of World Rowing with a commitment to review over the next 12 months. We welcome feedback and encourage people to do so formally via this feedback form.”

Meanwhile, UK Athletics on Wednesday announced it was postponing an update to its own trans policy in anticipation of a planned tightening of World Athletics rules on the issue next month.