The back story
Erica James, a club-level cricketer, and Australian women’s cricketer Alex Blackwell, have been the public faces in the country when it came to the push for the inclusion policy in cricket. In primary school and high school James played cricket in the boys team. “From the age of five, I felt I should have been a girl, but I didn’t know what that meant then,” James says in a Cricket Australia video. James loved playing cricket but moved away from the game, after being ‘sick of being in a boy’s team’. James was so upset that she spent a good part of the two decades playing video games and had little interaction with the outside world. Once she transitioned, she looked for a club which would accept her new status. She found the Cricket New South Wales document about inclusivity, and struck a friendship with Blackwell who was a board member. She played for the Universities Women’s Cricket Club and returned to the game. James’ story, and views of transgender players, along with those of human rights bodies, doctors and clubs is what led to Cricket Australia coming up with its transgender policy which will be applicable to top-level tournaments as well as at the club level.
Cricket Australia’s gender recognition policy is along the lines of those of the International Cricket Council’s, which came into being in 2017.
Testosterone, commonly known as the male hormone, but also found in women in relatively smaller quantities, is at the heart of eligibility rules when it comes to women athletes, namely those with differences in sex development. Cricket Australia’s policy puts the cap on testosterone at below 10 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L), which is in line with the policy of the International Olympic Council. To be eligible to compete in women’s teams, a player must show that her testosterone levels fall within the cap for a period of 12 months.
No uniform rules
Even in Australia rules differ across sport and not all disciplines follow the IOC guidelines. For example, in the Australian Football League (women), a policy on inclusive gender diversity was issued last year. However, transgender, intersex and those with differences in sex development who want to be eligible to play in women’s sport need to ensure that the naturally occurring levels of testosterone is below 5 nmol/L and for a period of two years. Following this a player can participate in the women’s football league. However, in rugby there is no policy for gender diversity but it is work-in- progress. Rugby, netball and tennis are also open to diverse gender inclusion.
Athletics controversial move
The IAAF introduced what it called the hyperandrogenism policy in 2011, which restricted the level of naturally occurring testosterone in women athletes to less than 10 nanomoles per litre. Indian sprinter Dutee Chand challenged the rules at the Court of Arbitration of Sport and they were withdrawn but similar rules came into force which reduced the cap of testosterone to less than 5 nanomoles per litre in restricted events — between 400 metres and a mile. South African Olympic champion in the 800 metres, Caster Semenya, unsuccessfully challenged the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification for athletes with differences of sex development. Relevant athletes will have to take oral contraceptive pills to reduce their testosterone levels to below 5 nmol/L for six months to be eligible to compete. Those who don’t want to take medication but still want to compete in restricted events, can do so in the male category or in the ‘inter-sex’ category if there is one at a competition. However, there is no restriction on participation in domestic competitions.