Billie Jean King and Olympic champions across many sports called on track and field officials to rescind a limit on female runners’ testosterone levels set to go into effect for next season.
“No woman should be required to change her body to compete in women’s sport,” read a letter published by Athlete Ally on Tuesday. “We demand you rescind these discriminatory regulations, and stand with female athletes globally in pursuit of an equitable and inclusive athletic experience.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Olympic champions including soccer players Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe, hockey players Meghan Duggan and Angela Ruggiero, skier Hannah Kearney, swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, rowers Katelin Guregian and Mary Whipple and softball player Jessica Mendoza and Paralympic champions Jessica Long and Oksana Masters.
They said the proposed rule violates the Olympic Charter, which states, “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
Female runners with high testosterone must reduce those levels or will not be allowed in international races between 400m and the mile, according to an IAAF rule starting Nov. 1.
“Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes,” IAAF president Seb Coe said in an April press release. “The revised rules are not about cheating, no athlete with a DSD [difference of sexual development] has cheated, they are about leveling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition.”
The IAAF, after funding a study along with the World Anti-Doping Agency, said research showed the following natural testosterone levels:
Most women: .12-1.79 nanomoles per liter in blood
Normal men after puberty: 7.7-29.4 nmol/L
The IAAF rule forces all women who race the 400m through mile and who are androgen-sensitive to restrict their ratio to below five. It said women who have “a difference of sexual development” can have natural testosterone levels beyond the normal male range.
The IAAF and WADA-funded study found that women with high testosterone have up to a 4.5 percent advantage over their competition on the track.
Research showed 7.1 of every 1,000 elite female track and field athletes have elevated testosterone, most of which were runners in events between 400m and the mile.
The most successful woman across those distances, South African Caster Semenya, who was gender tested in 2009 and is expected to be affected by the proposed rule, is challenging it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Semenya “asserts that the regulations are discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable, and in violation of the IAAF Constitution, the Olympic Charter, the laws of Monaco (where the IAAF is based), the laws of jurisdictions in which international competitions are held, and of universally recognized human rights,” according to her legal team.
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