A NORTH-EAST university is taking the lead in a new project to examine how transitions in gender and gender fluidity will impact sports participation.

The project, led by a research team at Teesside University, comes after British world record marathon runner Paula Radcliffe warned that transgender athletes could be the death of women’s sport.

It also comes the day after Caster Semenya's appeal against the introduction of a testosterone limit for women with naturally-occurring high levels of the hormone by athletics' world governing body the IAAF has been rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The ruling, which will provoke fury among the South African star's supporters, means she and other athletes with similar genetic conditions will have to take hormone suppressants to bring their testosterone down to a level closer to the typical female range.

Gender fluidity has become a prominent feature of modern cultural life and many institutions, including the military and the criminal justice system, are already making steps to accommodate people who identify as such, but sport’s attempts to adjust have been uneven and controversial.

The new research will, for the first time, assess popular opinion and examine the extent to which sport must change to accommodate gender fluidity.

It is being led by Dr Kevin Dixon, a senior lecturer in Sports Sociology in Teesside University’s School of Health & Social Care, along with other professors at Aston University and in South Australia.

Dr Dixon said: “Nobody so far has tried to assess how people feel and think about the transgender issue in sport and how it will affect practically everything in sport. This new research project encourages people to express their thoughts and is a platform for those who wish to make their opinions known.

“Sport's challenge is to find a solution. Clearly gender fluidity is very much part of 21st century life and sport must reflect the world around it. Sport will be out of sync with society unless it embraces gender fluidity."

There is a re-occurring theme among female sport stars that allowing transgender athletes to compete in events which reflect their present sex, as opposed to their sex at birth, will distort competitive sport.

Former swimmer Sharron Davies has also faced criticism after claiming that transgender women should not be allowed to compete in female sport, whilst tennis legend Martina Navratilova labelled it ‘insane’.