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ICONS Seeks Justice as Transgender Proposal Sinks Fairness in US Rowing

ICONS is Deeply Concerned About the Proposed “USRowing Transgender and Gender Diverse Athlete Participation Policy.”

Washington, DC, Oct. 21, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Release 

ICONS Seeks Justice as Transgender Proposal

Sinks Fairness in US Rowing


LAS VEGAS — The Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS) is seeking justice for female athletes as USRowing policies continue to erase hard-fought gains for fairness in women’s sports by allowing biological males to compete in all categories for women and girls.


ICONS is deeply concerned about the proposed “USRowing Transgender and Gender Diverse Athlete Participation Policy.” The policy, like the current one implemented in 2016, perpetuates unjust competition for female rowers and diminishes their value and opportunities, said Marshi Smith, an NCAA swimming champion and co-founder of ICONS.


“We urge the USRowing Board to overhaul their policy to keep opportunity in competition equal between males and females,” said Smith. “Sadly, many don’t realize that without making the women and girls category exclusive to females, as USRowing has failed to do, they are overtly discriminating against their female athletes.”


This comes the week of the world’s largest three-day rowing competition, the Head of the Charles Regatta, which begins Oct. 21 in Boston with some 11,000 competitors in 61 events where biological males can compete in any division in which they self-identify. Smith said this violates the 2022 “Rules of Rowing” guidelines from USRowing, which address fairness and explicitly state, “All rowers competing at a regatta shall at all times ... compete fairly.”


The proposed USRowing policy mirrors the recently adopted transgender policy of British Rowing, which was met with strong public outcry. British Rowing Chair Mark Davies, who opposed their own new transgender policy, said it brought British Rowing “in line with World Rowing” by permitting biological males who self-identify as women to compete in the women’s category. To support his appeal, Davies cited a recent scientific study demonstrating yet again that testosterone suppression does not eliminate the male advantage in muscle mass, grip strength, or VO2 max, even after 14 years of hormonal suppression.


“In sports, fairness must take precedence,” said Dr. Mary O’Connor, head of ICONS Rowing and a former US Olympic team rower. “We want all individuals to be able to compete. Eligibility must be based on biology, namely sex. We have categories for age and weight also based on biology to ensure a level playing field. We must not create categories based on identities such as race, ethnicity, religion, or gender identification.” A champion of fair competition, Dr. O’Connor was a member of Yale University’s 1976 women’s rowing team, which protested sports inequalities and was at the forefront of the Title IX movement to fight sex discrimination in college athletics.


As the USRowing Board of Directors continues to review its transgender policy, ICONS urges USRowing to follow Davies’ plea to World Rowing, and reverse the injustice to US female athletes by protecting the women’s category for biological female athletes.


ICONS is supported by world-class athletes, parents, internationally renowned scientists, doctors and health care experts, as well as lawyers, advocacy groups, and women’s organizations. You can learn more about ICONS and get involved at


For media inquiries, please contact:

Marshi Smith
Independent Council on Women's Sports