When Ideology Trumps Science: A response to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport’s Review on Transwomen Athletes in the Female Category

Cathy Devine1, Emma Hilton2, Leslie Howe3, Miroslav Imbrišević4,
Tommy Lundberg
5, Jon Pike4
1 Independent Scholar; 2 University of Manchester; 3 University of Saskatchewan;
4 Open University (UK); 5 Karolinska Institutet

The recently published ‘Scientific Review’ by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport about transwomen’s participation in female sport doesn’t deserve its name; it is wholly unscientific. This publication follows a familiar pattern. The body is not important anymore when it comes to categorisation and eligibility in sport; instead, it’s all about a psychological phenomenon: gender identity. This side-lining of the body (which makes the side-lining of female athletes and the inclusion of male-born athletes possible) is now reinforced by an attack on the bio-medical sciences. Their agenda is – allegedly – the oppression of minorities. Only the socio-cultural disciplines can give us the answers we are looking for (in sport), because only they understand the coercive nature of academic disciplines and institutions which focus on material reality, rather than on social identity. The CCES Review is another attempt to replace materially based eligibility criteria in sport with ‘social identity’ as a passport to inclusion. We (a group of scientists and humanities scholars) have written an expert commentary about the CCES Review, highlighting its shortcomings in methodology, and its sometimes incoherent, sometimes misleading argumentation. We argue that the CCES strategy is a continuity with the history of the exclusion and oppression of female athletes in sexist, misogynist, patriarchal sport structures whilst, at the same time, masquerading as inclusive, anti-sexist and anti-misogynist.

Download a full-text pdf of the article

Read more on idrottsforum.org

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Really disappointed to see the forum here providing a platform for transphobic rhetoric. The criticisms being thrown at the Canadian Review paper could in many cases be equally applied to this article which appears heavily motivated by it’s own ideological standpoint.

  2. First of all, I think it’s important to point out that idrottsforum.org does not provide a platform for anything, it provides an opportunity for sport study scholars to publish academic articles on various aspects of sports. Further, we do not accept submissions that express phobic views on any issue. The piece by Devine et al. meets the requirements of the forum, which is a non-refereed publishing outlet, in terms of academic rigor. The forum welcomes comments, such as Kate Marks’ above, as well as, and for this rather complex issue preferably, longer reasoning and arguing submissions, which we will gladly publish.

  3. Stating that the CCES report attempts to deny biology is incredibly misleading, and quite typical of anti-trans groups which try to establish a false biology/culture dichotomy and claim that trans activists attempt to deny biology in favour of culture (which is utterly false). Quite literally half the CCES report goes into great detail specifically about biology and physical performance, reviewing all the available evidence on the matter of trans women in elite sport. It is broad and thorough in itself consideration of the evidence and differing perspectives on this issue, considering all available data in an unbiased way. The report calls for more research in terms of assessing performance data and biological markers/anthropometrics with regard to trans women in elite sport. It’s simply dishonest to portray it as denying or ignoring biology in any way.

    Furthermore, several of the authors listed above have clear links to anti-trans groups, and are quite well known for their anti-trans activism. In particular, Hilton and Lundberg have published academic work which is frankly dishonest in its misrepresentation and omission of existing data on trans women and physical performance (e.g. claiming that the evidence shows no loss of muscle mass following testosterone suppression, stating that this comes from “longitudinal research” when most of their cited studies are only around 12 months follow up, and we know that testosterone suppression continues to lower muscle mass etc. at 24 months and beyond).

    These are dishonest people using their academic credentials and a false claim of concern for women’s rights to pursue their transphobic agenda (while ignoring the many female athletes and women’s rights groups who support trans women, and trans people in general).

  4. Dear Dr Kaylin Hamilton, calling some of us ‘anti-trans’ and ‘dishonest’ doesn’t help your case (ad hominem attacks are logical fallacies). Being critical of trans-inclusion policies in sport is not the same as being ‘anti-trans’. We have pointed out the weaknesses in the CCES Report. Charging us with ‘misrepresentation and omission of existing data’ is just a reversal of what we have diagnosed for the CCES Report. The overwhelming scientific evidence shows that TW retain a considerable amount of male advantage, even after hormone therapy. For this reason many sports governing bodies are now reversing their policies (Swimming, World Athletics, UCI Cycling, etc.). It is precisely because we take our academic credentials seriously that we favour science and scholarshop over ideology. Miroslav Imbrišević


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.