I'VE been asked many times how I would have felt competing against a transgender woman. I’d like to think I’d have been entirely fine about the prospect; one of my greatest passions in life is the belief that sport is for everyone and, whether grassroots or elite level, it should be an entirely inclusive environment.

I never encountered the reality of it throughout my career but, for a long time, I believed I would have had no issue with facing a transgender athlete be it in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, World Championships or any other event. But as more research has been done into the participation of transgender athletes in sport, specifically women’s sport, I’ve found my certainty wavering.

As the research becomes more and more convincing that trans women retain some of the physical advantages of being born a man, I find myself less comfortable with the prospect I could have been faced with during my career: of competing against a trans woman.

I know many fellow female athletes and ex-athletes feel similarly.

Until now, the conversation around trans athletes has provided few, if any, answers. Certainly, this issue is far from black and white, despite some on either side of the debate painting it as such.

This week, however, a review was released by the four UK sports councils, as well as UK Sport, which could prove to be monumental.

This was the largest ever investigation into sports policy on the issue and came to the conclusion that, within women’s sport, “the inclusion of transgender people cannot be balanced regarding transgender inclusion, fairness and safety in gender-affected sport where there is meaningful competition.”

So, in many cases, it has been concluded that fairness and safety cannot co-exist with inclusion.

Trans women retain physique, stamina and strength advantages when competing in female sport, even when they reduce their testosterone levels, found the investigation, with the guidelines finding, having reviewed the science, that adult male athletes have on average a 10 to 12-per-cent performance advantage over female competitors in swimming and running events, and that increases to a 20-per-cent advantage in jumping events, and 35-per-cent greater performance in strength-based sports such as weightlifting for similar-sized athletes.

“The difference in performance, even at the lower range of 10 to 12 per cent, is not small in terms of competitive outcomes,” the review says. “It would result in Adam Peaty being beaten by half the pool length in a short-course 100m breaststroke competition, Dina Asher-Smith by more than 20m in the 200m track sprint, and Sir Mo Farah being lapped twice in the 10,000m track race.”

The significance of this review cannot be overstated.

The issue of transgender athletes in women’s sport has been hotly disputed in recent years, with the topic coming to the fore at Tokyo 2020 when weightlifter Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand became the first transgender woman to compete in Olympic competition.

But, as was perhaps expected, the report argues there is no magic solution for this issue.

There is no way to give equal importance to fairness, safety when relevant, and inclusion.

So, says the report, sports must now choose whether they are going to prioritise fairness and safety or inclusion.

It is something of a Sophie’s choice; there are few involved in sport who do not value all of these qualities. 

This is just guidance, and it only applies to grassroots up to national level sport but, despite this, the consequences are likely to be far-reaching but action by governing bodies will be expected.

That this report has been produced at all is hugely encouraging. It has long been apparent that clear guidelines were required, particularly when those on either side of the divide are so certain in their own belief.

The report has, inevitably, received criticism, particularly from those who argue inclusion is utmost and promoting the suggestion that trans women have an unfair advantage does untold damage to the rights of trans people, as well as the push for equality.

I have considerable sympathy for this viewpoint; trans people are the victims of disproportionate levels of discrimination and violence and so anything that can be done to make their lives smoother should be promoted.

But sport is different.

The physical advantages trans women possess laid out in this review make it hard, impossible even, to argue fairness and safety would be maintained if inclusion was to be the priority.

Sport, as we all know, is a zero-sum-game. There can only be one winner, there can only be so many places in a team. If someone is taking one of those places, then someone else is missing out. 

Would it be fair for a trans woman to take that spot if they are potentially enjoying the unfair advantage of having been born male? This review suggests not.

A potential solution outlined in this report is for there to be separate categories in which trans women can compete. 

It’s not a perfect answer, but it’s certainly one that seems to be the fairest, for now at least.

This review may be the most comprehensive done into this issue so far, but one thing is for sure, it will not be the last.

It seems an impossibility that any solution will be suggested that appeases every group and every individual who have concerns about where this discussion is going.

This is just the start.