UKA are asking for changes to the Equality Act ©Getty Images

UK Athletics (UKA) has called for the British Parliament to make an amendment to the 2010 Equality Act to allow the organisation to change its policy on the participation of transgender athletes.

In response, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) - established by the earlier 2006 Equality Act - said it was "disappointed" that UKA publicised "inaccurate advice".

The body said it "does not agree" with World Athletics' policy of testosterone suppression, which was further limited for transgender athletes and those with differences in sex development.

World Athletics' latest rule would reduce the maximum plasma testosterone level allowed from 5 nanomoles per litre to 2.5.

UKA called it a "sensitive topic" with "strong opinions".

Disagreeing with the testosterone argument, World Athletics said it trusted the evidence of UK Sports Council Equality Group guidance, who say transgender women retain a testosterone advantage regardless of reduction of levels, adding there was "no scientifically robust, independent research showing that all male performance advantage is eliminated following testosterone suppression".

It also cites safety concerns for transgender women suppressing testosterone to such a level.

UKA said an "open" category of all male-born athletes should be created instead open to all sexes, but did not call for a separate category for transgender men and women athletes, who have a performance disadvantage to non-transitioning males after hormone therapy begins.

Scottish Athletics does allow non-binary athletes to compete in men's competition.

Transgender rights has been a dominant talking point in the UK recently ©Getty Images
Transgender rights has been a dominant talking point in the UK recently ©Getty Images

The UKA Transgender Project Group recommended sporting exemptions in Section 195 of the 2010 Equality Act and the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

Due to the repeal of sporting exemption in the Gender Recognition Act in 2010, UKA says it cannot "lawfully exclude trans women in possession of a gender recognition certificate" - a legal document that recognises that trans women are female - administratively and legally.

The EHRC said it was concerned by UK Athletics' interpretation of the sporting exemption.

The first part of Section 195 said an exclusion can be made where an activity is "affected by gender".

"A gender-affected activity is a sport, game or other activity of a competitive nature in circumstances in which the physical strength, stamina or physique of average persons of one sex would put them at a disadvantage compared to average persons of the other sex as competitors in events involving the activity," reads Section 195.

The second part said discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment is allowed on the basis of fair competition and the safety of competitors.

"We reached out to UK Athletics and offered to discuss the legal advice underpinning their statement," added the EHRC.

"We are disappointed that they have chosen to publicise their inaccurate advice and we would urge all organisations to consult our website which explains equality law and how it relates to these issues."

DSD athlete Caster Semenya is one athlete affected by the latest new World Athletics rules ©Getty Images
DSD athlete Caster Semenya is one athlete affected by the latest new World Athletics rules ©Getty Images

Others have expressed concerns that amendments to the Equality Act could set a precedent for regressing rights for transgender people.

"Athletics is an incredibly inclusive sport and we want it to be a welcoming environment for all to enjoy competing in," said UKA chair Ian Beattie.

"I cannot think of another sport that encompasses such a diverse community and it is something to be proud of. 

"At the same time, we also have a duty to ensure fairness in competition in the women's category.

"The statement we are issuing today demonstrates the challenge UKA and other sporting governing bodies are faced with at this time. 

"Therefore we are calling for a change in legislation that will provide clarity for all and ensure the women's category can be lawfully reserved for female at birth competitors.

"We would appeal to all those engaged in this discussion online to share their thoughts in a way that is respectful of the differing opinions and sensitive nature of the debate." 

Former British sprinter James Ellington had called national team team-mate Will Grimsey "a weasel", after the high jumper had called Ellington's tweets "vile" over the subject.

Recent legislation requests come weeks after the United Kingdom Government vetoed the Scottish Parliament's new gender recognition reform legislation, which would reduce the period from two years to three months that a transgender person needs to live as their recognised gender before applying for a gender recognition certificate.

It was the first incident of the UK Government invoking Section 35 of the 1998 Scotland Act.