U Sports announces new transgender policy for athletics

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Halifax West Warriors wide receiver Kenny Cooley works on a passing drill during half time as they play the Cobequid Cougars in Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Football League action in Truro, N.S. on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

TORONTO — U Sports, the governing body of university athletics in Canada, announced a new transgender policy on Thursday that will allow athletes to compete on teams that correspond with their gender identity.

U Sports said in a release that the policy will be in place immediately for all of its 56 member institutions.

Under the new policy, athletes will be eligible to compete on teams corresponding to either their gender identity or their sex assigned at birth, so long as they comply with the Canadian Anti-Doping Program.

The new policy was developed by the U Sports equity committee and approved by the U Sports board of directors.

"The members of the equity committee were driven to ensure that all students at our Canadian universities have equal opportunities of being selected to varsity teams regardless of their gender or their gender identity and expression," said Lisen Moore, chair of the U Sports equity committee and manager of varsity sports, athletics and recreation at McGill University.

"We are thrilled by the support of the board on our leading-edge transgender policy, and we are now looking forward to assisting our member institutions with the roll-out and implementation of that policy."

The new policy does not necessarily match those of other sporting organizations.

For example, the U Sports policy does not mandate hormone treatment, unlike some other organizations.

David Goldstein, the chief operating officer for U Sports, said that decision was made after examining a 2016 report from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.

"What was ultimately found regarding hormone (treatment) was it wasn’t supported by any direct evidence that hormones significantly impact athletic performance," Goldstein said.

Goldstein said U Sports athletes who compete in other sporting events will have to remain eligible under those organizations’ guidelines to compete. So, an athlete could potentially be eligible for U Sports competition, but not for an event sanctioned by another organization, such as the Summer or Winter Universiade.

Goldstein said the fairness question was examined in detail.

"It was all looked at," he said. "We were well aware (on) the equity committee of the fairness question … More attention is paid generally, rightly or wrongly, to trans females."

After drug testing of athletes, there could be an adverse analytical finding, which would lead to a further medical review of the circumstances, Goldstein said. Only then would a decision be made on whether an athlete was violating the Canadian Anti-Doping Program.

A U Sports athlete remains limited to five total years of eligibility, and may only compete on sport teams of one gender during a given academic year, according to the policy.

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