World Athletics, the track-and-field governing body, banned athletes who have gone through male puberty from competing in women’s elite events, saying it had decided to prioritize “fairness and the integrity of the female competition before inclusion.”
The update to the organization’s transgender policy announced Thursday prevents male-born competitors who identify as female from entering women’s world-rankings competitions starting March 31.
“Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups, but we continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe in a statement.
The World Athletics Council made its decision after consulting for two months this year with stakeholders, including its member federations, the Global Athletics Coaches Academy and Athletes’ Commission, and the International Olympic Committee, as well as transgender and human-rights groups.
The Monaco-based authority said it also floated the option of allowing transgender athletes to become eligible for the female category by maintaining their testosterone levels below 2.5 nmol/L for 24 months, a standard that would have been extremely difficult for male-born athletes to meet.
Average male testosterone ranges from 10 to 35 nmol/L, while the female range is 0.5 to 2.4. Even so, “there was little support within the sport for the option,” the organization said.
“We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage which will inevitably develop over the coming years,” Coe said. “As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount.”
The group added that there are “currently no transgender athletes competing internationally in athletics and consequently no athletics-specific evidence of the impact these athletes would have on the fairness of female competition in athletics.”
BREAKING: World Athletics has moved to prohibit transgender athletes who have gone through male puberty from participating in female world ranking competitions.— REDUXX (@ReduxxMag) March 23, 2023
The sporting body’s president, Sebastian Coe, announced the decision at a press conference just moments ago. pic.twitter.com/8DEerPup88
The council also announced stricter limits on participation in women’s events by athletes with a Disorder of Sexual Development, requiring them to reduce their testosterone below 2.5 nmol/L for a minimum of 24 months to be eligible to compete in all female categories.
The authority had previously excluded DSD athletes from competing at distances from 400 meters to one mile, but that restriction will be lifted, allowing DSD athletes who meet the testosterone requirement to enter all races.
Debate has raged for years on how to treat DSD athletes, including Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya of South Africa and silver medalist Christine Mboma of Namibia, as they garner international victories in women’s races.
Those born with DSD, also known as intersex, are often raised female after being born with ambiguous genitalia, but may have undescended male testes and produce higher levels of testosterone as they mature.
Advocates for single-sex sports alarmed by the rise of male-to-female transgender athletes in women’s competitive events cheered the World Athletics decision.
“Thank you @sebcoe & @WorldAthletics for standing up for female athletes across the world who are worthy of fair sport,” Former British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies tweeted.
Fair Play for Women tweeted that “World Athletics finds the courage to protect female sport once more. Thank you @sebcoe and @WorldAthletics.”
The World Athletics Council also agreed to set up a 12-month working group “to further consider the issue of transgender inclusion.”
In June, the international swimming authority FINA voted to effectively ban male-to-female transgender athletes by barring them from elite events unless they had transitioned before age 12. FINA also proposed adding an open category for swimmers.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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