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World Athletics bans transgender athletes from female category

“Science may be insufficient, but the council agrees it must be guided by our overarching principle to protect all biological females in our sport.”

world athletics transgender Photo by: Kevin Morris

On March 23, World Athletics announced a complete ban on transgender athletes competing in the female category. No athletes who have been through male puberty will be allowed to participate in women’s events from March 31st onward.

“Transgender athletes should not be competing in the female category,” said World Athletics president Seb Coe. “Science may be insufficient, but the council agrees it must be guided by our overarching principle to protect all biological females in our sport.”

“This has not been an easy decision,” said Coe. “We entered a consultation months ago, we wanted to hear from all stakeholders, and the judgment we took was in the best interest of our sport.”

The World Athletics Council agreed to establish a transgender working group to bring data and science to the council meetings and further consider the issue of transgender inclusion. The goal of the working group is to give the World Athletics Council a better understanding of transgender athletes in our sport. President Coe said he intends to appoint a trans-female athlete as chair of this working group.

sebastian coe world athletics
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe says there isn’t enough science to allow transgender athletes to participate in the female category. Photo: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images

The previous World Athletics transgender policy stated to be eligible for female competition, athletes had to keep their testosterone levels below 5 nmol/L for 12 months. The new ruling will bar all transgender athletes from the female category. 

“It was impossible to maintain the transgender regulations for what they were,” said Coe. “A full ban on transgender athletes in the women’s category is the right approach.”

World Athletics says there are 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.

New DSD regulations

The new DSD regulations established by World Athletics will require relevant athletes to reduce their testosterone levels below a limit of 2.5 nmol/L for a minimum of 24 months to compete internationally in the female category in any event, not just the events that were restricted under the previous regulations.

The previous restricted events (400m to the mile) have been removed from the regulations.

DSD athlete Francine Niyonsaba competing at the 2022 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. Photo: Kevin Morris

Interim requirements will be introduced for athletes already competing in what were the unrestricted events (distances below 400m and above one mile, plus field events). These provisions include a requirement to suppress their testosterone levels below 2.5nmol/L for a minimum of six months before they can be eligible to compete again.

The six months period is consistent with the previous regulations, which required six months of testosterone suppression (below 5nmol/L). The interim requirements do not apply to the previously restricted events (400m to one mile), where two years of testosterone suppression will be required before the athlete is eligible to compete.

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