World Athletics announced on March 24 that as of the end of this month no transgender athletes will be allowed to participate alongside members of the opposite sex. This will replace the rule that allowed male athletes to compete alongside women if they artificially reduced their testosterone levels below a certain threshold for 12 months. President Lord Sebastian Coe said the decision was “guided by the overall principle, which is to protect the women’s category,” but said the athletics governing body will continue to work on transgender eligibility guidelines.
After consulting with key stakeholders, including 40 member federations, athletes, transgender groups and coaches, the council decided that biological men should not be allowed to compete alongside women at the elite level. The Council felt that allowing them to do so would “compromise the integrity of women’s competitions” and therefore “cannot in good conscience” allow the rules to remain as they currently are.
Lord Coe stated that the decision is “in the best interest of our sport,” adding that: “Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups, but we continue to believe that we must keep fairness for female athletes above all other considerations.” However, he said the issue is not closed and that World Athletics will be “driven by the science on physical performance and the male advantage that will inevitably develop in the coming years. As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the women’s category in athletics is paramount.”
A working group will be established to lay down guidelines for transgender eligibility, and it will consult with transgender athletes to learn their views on participation in athletics, review existing research and commission more where data are insufficient to draw meaningful conclusions, and then make recommendations to the World Athletics Council regarding future eligibility. The newly announced rules, which take effect March 31, prohibit athletes who have gone through what World Athletics has termed “male puberty” from competing in women’s world ranking competitions. World Athletics stated that the exclusion will apply to “male-to-female transgender athletes who have reached male puberty.” This is the first step towards a return to the common sense of reality and to avoid discriminating and penalizing female athletes. No more ‘transgender machismo’ in sports.