More than 80 experts in health and sports have written to World Rugby condemning its proposed ban on trans women playing the sport.
The governing body announced in July a draft proposal that would see trans women excluded from rugby competition, citing a greater risk of injury to other players.
The same proposal recommended that trans men should be allowed to compete with cis men, subject to a physical assessment.
A petition against the proposed new rules has gathered more than 17,000 signatures.
Now, 84 academics specialising in sports and public health have signed an official letter to World Rugby calling for it to scrap the proposed ban on trans women in competition, Outsports has reported.
“I think what’s happening is a blatantly discriminatory policy that is being masked under the guise of safety,” said Professor Noah Riseman, one of the signatories of the letter.
Professor Riseman said that the science cited by World Rugby was faulty.
“It’s not been peer reviewed, it’s speculative,” he said.
“We thought if World Rugby is supposedly using science, supposedly using expertise, to underpin this policy, then academics who do actually work in this area need to come together and say this is not a good application of science.”
Retired Australian Olympian and researcher Dr Madeleine Pape said that more effort was needed to “make space for people, to make space and connect with the experiences of trans athletes”.
“Governing bodies like World Rugby are failing to provide opportunities to create an environment where athletes can learn about all the different kinds of people in sports and learn why it’s important for them to be a part of sport,” said Dr Pape.
The letter urges World Rugby to develop new, inclusive, evidence-based guidelines that consider anti-discrimination laws.
“If the values of rugby really are based around the concept of inclusion, policies cannot
alienate and discriminate against vulnerable people,” it reads.