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The Pike Proposal

Transgender inclusion policies in sport have resulted in serious concerns for the safety and fairness of women and girl athletes.

Dr Jon Pike, a Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at the Open University (UK), recently published a proposal in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport that is a potential solution to the concerns.

This is a summary of the Pike Proposal.

Pike argues that trying to balance the desire for transgender inclusion with the need for safety and fairness in sport is the wrong way to approach the problem. Instead, he advocates using a ‘lexical order’ for decision making – meaning that items are compared and put into an order of priority.

He says sports governing bodies are unable to equitably weigh the values of safety, fairness and inclusivity because these values are not comparable or tradeable. How much fairness or safety is it acceptable to sacrifice to achieve inclusivity? Secondly, why is there an assumption that policy makers are entitled to trade off injury risk or fairness in exchange for inclusion?

To solve this problem Pike proposes using this lexical method to compare and categorise the competing values and put them into a logical order:

Of all the rules a sports body can adopt, we only want the safe ones.

Of the set of safe rules, we only want the ones that are also fair.

Of the set of rules that are both safe and fair, we want only those that are also inclusive.

Thus, we can order the competing values so that safety comes first, then fairness, followed by inclusion.


The IOC has already acknowledged this lexical order in a 2015 statement: “The overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition. Restrictions on participation are appropriate to the extent they are necessary and proportionate to the achievement of that objective.” This statement recognises the overriding aim of fairness, not that sports policy should be a balancing act between fairness and inclusivity.

Pike states that applying this lexical order to sports policy requires two further conditions to be considered.


The Safety conditional: Is there an increased risk of injury from the inclusion of transwomen in women’s sport and is this increased risk intolerable? If the answer is yes, then it is unsafe for transwomen to compete in the women’s category.


The Fairness conditional: Does male advantage remain after hormone treatment and is this advantage intolerable? If the answer is yes, then it is unfair for transwomen to compete in the women’s category.


World Rugby, in its 2020 consultation, answered precisely these questions and reached the decision that transwomen playing in women’s rugby is neither safe nor fair, nor is it reasonable or tolerable to expose women players to the increased risks to their safety or fairness.

Pike’s conclusion is that if it is unsafe or unfair for transwomen to compete in women’s sport, then it ought not to be allowed because of the priority of safety and fairness over inclusion.


New Sporting Categories

Pike asserts that sporting rules ought to recognise male advantage and protect female sport from those with male advantage. Advocates for transwomen inclusion in female sport usually say that gender identity matters more than male physical advantage or that the advantage doesn’t exist following testosterone reduction. Both ideas are false. If male advantage does not matter, why have sex segregated sports categories at all?

Pike states that sports categories should be organised according to safety and fairness and the entry requirements for each class should be independent of gender identity. His proposal is to have two sports categories, with appropriate age restrictions in each.

First, a Protected category which excludes everyone with male advantage, including residual male advantage. This class would exclude all those who have gone through male puberty. Transmen (female sex) would be permitted to compete in this category if they wished. Eligibility would not be through gender identity but instead would be about eliminating male physiological advantage.

A second, Open category, is where everyone else would be eligible to compete. This category would be open to both male and female bodied athletes, to transwomen and transmen.

By having these two sports categories, Pike believes rules can be designed that are maximally fair and maximally inclusive. It would require male athletes to open up their sports to any transwomen (male sex) and any women who want to compete in an open category. Everyone would be able to compete both safely and fairly and maximum inclusion in sport would be achieved.

To read the full academic paper go to this link:

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