World Athletics Council bans transgender women from competing in female sports events

World Athletics Council bans transgender women from competing in female sports events
Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi reacts after winning the Womens 3000m during the Wanda Diamond League Athletics Doha 2022 meeting at Qatar Sports Club on 13 May 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Francois Nel / Getty Images)

The World Athletics Council has adopted a proposal to change its rules on transgender athletes in women’s track and field events.

World Athletics has banned transgender women from competing in elite female competitions if they have gone through male puberty, the sport’s governing body said on Thursday. 

The council also voted to tighten restrictions on athletes with Differences in Sex Development (DSD), cutting the maximum amount of plasma testosterone for athletes in half, to 2.5 nanomoles per litre from five. 

World Athletics (WA) president Sebastian Coe told a news conference that the decision to exclude transgender women was based “on the overarching need to protect the female category”. 

The governing body had previously floated the option of transgender athletes being allowed to compete in the female category if they, too, maintained testosterone levels below 2.5 nanomoles per litre for 24 months. 

Sebastian Coe, IAAF President, during a press conference on 26 March 2017 in Kampala, Uganda. (Photo: Roger Sedres / Gallo Images)

Yet it said on Thursday that it became apparent there was little support within the sport for that proposal. 

“We’re not saying no forever,” Coe said, adding that WA would form a task force to study the issue of trans inclusion that would be chaired by a transgender athlete. 

Testosterone reduction 

DSD athletes will have to reduce their testosterone levels below the new limit for a minimum of 24 months to compete internationally in any elite event in the female category, the WA said in a statement. 

The tighter rules will affect DSD athletes such as two-time Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, the 2020 Olympic silver medallist in the 200m, and Francine Niyonsaba, who finished runner-up to Semenya in the 800m at the 2016 Olympics. 

WA regulations around DSD previously required women competing in events between 400m and a mile to maintain testosterone levels below five nanomoles per litre. 

At the 2020 Olympics, South Africa’s Semenya and Burundi’s Niyonsaba were both barred from the 800m before turning their attention to the 5,000m. 

Caster Semenya of Team South Africa competes in the Women’s 5000m heats on day six of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field on July 20, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images for World Athletics)

Semenya failed to qualify for the Games while Niyonsaba made the final before being disqualified for a lane violation. 

Namibia’s Mboma, prevented from running the 400m, switched to the 200m, winning silver. 

DSD athletes have male testes but do not produce enough of the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that is necessary for the formation of male external genitalia. 

Swimming’s world governing body, World Aquatics, voted last June to bar transgender women from elite competition if they had experienced any part of male puberty. 

A scientific panel had found that even after reducing their testosterone levels through medication, transgender women still had a significant advantage. 

The vote passed with 71% of the national federations in favour. DM


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