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World Athletics proposes strict new transgender guidelines

The new proposal would allow transgender women to compete in the women's category under tighter testosterone limits

Track runners

On Saturday, World Athletics made a proposal to its member federations that would allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s track and field events, but under considerably tighter rules around testosterone than have existed until now.

The women’s 1,500m at the 2022 Prefontaine Classic. Photo: Kevin Morris

According to The Telegraph, World Athletics stressed that a final decision has not been made. The option being discussed among the council and member federations would limit the maximum amount of plasma testosterone for both transgender women and those with differences in sex development (DSD) at 2.5 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L), which is half the current limit of five nanomoles. The proposal also states athletes would need to remain below that level for two years.

The current World Athletics transgender policy states that to be eligible for female competition, athletes must keep their testosterone levels below 5 nmol/L for a 12-month period. The new proposal will make it harder for trans women, slicing testosterone levels in half and doubling the length of time they must maintain this level to 24 months. 

The governing body’s proposal stops short of calling for an outright ban on trans athletes; it claims this is their “preferred option” after reviewing several new and existing scientific studies to draw a line between inclusion and fairness.

“Putting forward a preferred option is the best way to gather constructive feedback, but this does not mean this is the option that will be presented to Council or adopted,” World Athletics said in a statement.

According to The Telegraph, a final decision over the proposal will be made at the next World Athletics council meeting, in March.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe. Photo: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images for Go Local

In June, World Aquatics (previously known as FINA) put other sports governing bodies on alert after they banned transgender participation in women’s events. World Athletics president Sebastian Coe praised FINA’s decision to Insider,  saying, “When it comes to transgender athletes, I believe in prioritizing fairness over inclusion.”

Advocates for transgender inclusion say that there are relatively few trans women athletes and that not enough studies have been done to determine exactly whether athletes who have transitioned retain advantages over athletes who were born female; the other side believes that suppressing testosterone does not remove the advantages of someone who has gone through puberty as a male, and that this is unfair to cisgender women athletes.