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World Athletics bans transgender athletes from female events

Relay runner gets into position on track. (Unsplash)
May 06, 2023

World Athletics has banned male-to-female transgender athletes from international women’s competitions in sports like track and field following new restrictions last year on transgender swimmers.

The organization’s council – which regulates track and field and other running events – voted on Thursday to “exclude male-to-female transgender athletes who have been through male puberty” beginning March 31, according to a press release.

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Male-to-female transgender swimmers were also banned in 2022 by the international body that governs that sport, FINA. Swimmers are still eligible if they completed their transition before turning 12 or never advanced past a certain stage of male puberty, as reported by BBC.

The World Athletics Council stated that it will establish a “working group” of various stakeholders, including one transgender athlete, that will work for 12 months “to further consider the issue of transgender inclusion.” 

The group will “consult specifically with transgender athletes to seek their views on competing in athletics” and review, or potentially commission, additional research on the topic, according to the release.

The council stated that there are currently “no transgender athletes competing” in the sports that it regulates, and therefore no evidence specific to those sports on “the impact these athletes would have on the fairness of female competition.”

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World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said the organization’s view is that “we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations.”

“We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage, which will inevitably develop over the coming years,” Coe said. “As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount.”

The council also announced new regulations for athletes with “differences of sexual development.” Those athletes must now keep their testosterone levels below 2.5 nmol/L for at least 24 months to compete in a female event, according to the press release.