World Athletics is excluding male-to-female transgender athletes from top-level international track and field and increasing restrictions for athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD).
Also Thursday, World Athletics lifted its ban on Russia’s track and field federation that dated to 2015 over doping violations, but Russia and Belarus athletes and officials remain banned due to the war in Ukraine. More on that here.
Regarding transgender athletes, the World Athletics council “decided to prioritize fairness and the integrity of the female competition before inclusion,” according to a press release.
The decision was made after a two-month consultation with national federations, athletes, coaches, the IOC and representatives from transgender and human rights groups.
“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,” World Athletics President Seb Coe said in the release. “We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage which will inevitably develop over the coming years. As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount.”
A working group, which will include a transgender athlete, will “further consider the issue of transgender inclusion” for 12 months.
There are no transgender athletes currently competing in top-level international track and field, according to World Athletics.
World Athletics also increased restrictions on DSD athletes.
Previously, DSD athletes were eligible to compete in women’s track and field events without having to suppress testosterone, except for running distances from the 400m through the mile. For 400m through the mile, athletes were eligible if their testosterone levels were capped at five nanomoles per liter. World Athletics said that no female athletes would have a level above the cap unless they had a DSD or a tumor.
Starting March 31, all women’s events will have a stricter limit of two and a half nanomoles per liter.
World Athletics said it made the decision based on “more than 10 years of research and evidence of the physical advantages that DSD athletes bring to the female category.”
All DSD athletes who have been competing outside of the 400m through the mile must suppress their testosterone levels below two and a half nanomoles per liter for six months before being eligible to compete again. This makes them ineligible to compete through the world championships in August, but they can come back and qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Testosterone must be suppressed for two years for events from 400m through the mile and for DSD athletes who have not already been competing.
Notable athletes who previously said they were affected by the DSD rules include South African Caster Semenya, the Olympic 800m champion in 2012 and 2016 who moved up to the 5000m rather than suppress testosterone to remain in the 800m. Semenya, 32, was eliminated in the 5000m heats at last summer’s world championships.
Also Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, who took 2016 Olympic 800m silver behind Semenya and also moved up to longer-distance events. She won the 2021 Diamond League 5000m title and missed last year’s worlds due to a foot injury.
Christine Mboma of Namibia took silver in the Tokyo Olympic 200m after being ruled ineligible to race the 400m due to the testosterone cap. Mboma, 19, missed last year’s worlds after tearing a thigh muscle.
Niger’s Aminatou Seyni finished fourth in the 200m at last year’s worlds after dropping down from the 400m due to the rule.
Athlete Ally, a nonprofit LGBTQ athletic advocacy group, called the new policies discriminatory.
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