Sport New Zealand says there is more consultation to come on a policy regarding the participation of transgender athletes in sport, following calls by some former New Zealand Olympic champions for the Government to intervene in the process.
A group of 43 athletes — including former Olympians Barbara Kendall, Lorraine Moller and Danyon Loader, former Olympic Chef de Mission and Emeritus Professor David Gerrard, and former All Black and Black Cap Jeff Wilson — sent a letter to Sport Minister Grant Robertson today asking he urgently intervene to extend consultation on Sport NZ's draft guiding priniciples for the participation of transgender players in sport.
The group said the policy was being decided behind closed doors, and would give transgender athletes the right to play sport in the gender of which they identify, with no explanation or transition required.
However, Sport NZ CEO Raelene Castle told 1 NEWS these claims were incorrect, and there was still a long way to go in the consultation process.
"We consulted with a representative group of experts, including academics, sports, the rainbow community and advocates for women's sport, to help us develop the draft guiding principles and are now sharing the draft with this group before a much broader consultation process is undertaken," Castle said.
“We want sport to be safe and inclusive for all New Zealanders, but the issues around transgender participation vary significantly from sport to sport.
"Once the guiding principles are final they will be shared with national bodies and Sport NZ will work with them to explore the development of policies for individual codes, but whether they do make a policy change and what this looks like will be a decision for each sport.
“There is more consultation to come. This is an important piece of work and all relevant stakeholders, including athletes and their representatives, will have an opportunity to contribute.”
New Zealand has been in the spotlight recently regarding transgender athletes, with weightlifter Laurel Hubbard set to compete at her first Olympic Games in Tokyo despite strong opposition from her competition.
Rival weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen said this week it was "unfair to the sport and to the athletes" for Hubbard to be competing, and described it as "like a bad joke".
A former Olympian and now a professor of sports medicine, Gerrard said transwomen athletes who transition after puberty retained significant, measurable benefits in sport.
“Our concerns are supported by a body of unequivocal international research, highlighting the advantages transwomen have over female competitors, even after testosterone suppression," Gerrard said.
Kendall, an Olympic gold medallist and former IOC member sitting on the Women and Sport Commission and Sport and the Environment Commission, said more research was needed around the implications of including transgender athletes in women’s sport.
“There now needs to be more extensive global research around transgender woman competing at both the community level and elite level in women’s sport to ensure safety, inclusion and fair play as we move into the future.”