Rugby league trailblazer condemns transgender ban

STORY: The International Rugby League (IRL) said on Tuesday (June 21) that "male-to-female" transgender athletes would be barred from women's international competition until further notice as it conducts further research to finalise a formal policy.

The IRL's ruling follows global swimming's decision on Sunday (June 19) to restrict transgender athletes from elite women's competition and to look at setting up "open" categories for transgender competition.

Former Australian rugby league international Roberts, who came out in 1995, told Reuters the IRL's decision was "disappointing" and could potentially drive transgender athletes away from sport.

"I do think there needs to be a conversation about this and how they reached that decision - and the reasons they reached that decision," he told Reuters in an interview.

"I mean there’s so much misinformation and disinformation around this subject."

The IRL said it was working to develop criteria "based on the best possible evidence" that balanced the right to compete with the safety of participants.

Roberts said the heated debate about transgender athletes in elite sport reminded him of the controversy triggered by sportsmen coming out in the 1990s, including former soccer player Justin Fashanu.

Briton Fashanu was the first professional soccer player to come out as gay.

"It’s almost like the same storyline. Back when I came out and in 1990 when Justin Fashanu came out, it was seen as like the destruction of men’s contact sport," said Roberts.

"You couldn’t have gay men in the locker room ... We obviously moved past all that, we matured, re-educated ourselves.

"And this is almost like the modern day equivalent - like, these trans women are going to destroy the sport, predominantly be the victors and the major winners.

"It’s not what the history shows."

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