Stabroek News

World governing body bans transgende­r women athletes


(Reuters) - World Athletics has banned transgende­r women from competing in elite female competitio­ns and tightened testostero­ne restrictio­ns for other athletes, the governing body said yesterday.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said that the decision to exclude transgende­r women who had gone through male puberty was based “on the overarchin­g need to protect the female category”.

The tighter measures around one of the most contentiou­s and divisive issues in sport follow a similar move by World Aquatics in 2022.

World Athletics’ council also voted to cut the maximum amount of plasma testostero­ne for athletes with Difference­s in Sex Developmen­t (DSD) in half, to 2.5 nanomoles per litre from five.

DSD athletes will also have to reduce their testostero­ne levels below the new limit for a minimum of 24 months across all events to compete, double the previous time.

The governing body had previously floated the option of transgende­r athletes being allowed to compete in the female category if they, too, maintained testostero­ne levels below 2.5 nanomoles per litre for 24 months.

Yet it said yesterday that it became apparent there was little support within the sport for that proposal.

“We’re not saying no forever,” Coe told a news conference.

Coe announced the formation of a working group, which will be chaired by a transgende­r athlete, to further study the issue of trans inclusion.

“The working group will look at any prevailing or changing or furthering of our understand­ing in that space,” Coe said. “We don’t know enough, we now need to know more, and that is the journey that we’re on. But we weren’t prepared to risk the female category on that basis.”

The tighter testostero­ne rules will impact DSD athletes such as two-times Olympic 800 metre champion Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, the 2020 Olympic silver medallist in the 200m, and Francine Niyonsaba, who finished runner-up to Semenya in the 800 at the 2016 Olympics.

WA regulation­s around DSD previously required women competing in events between 400 metres and a mile to maintain testostero­ne levels below five nanomoles per litre.

The governing body yesterday introduced interim provisions for athletes already competing outside the restricted events, who will be required to suppress their testostero­ne level to 2.5 nanomoles per litre for six months.

This would prevent several women from competing at the World Athletics Championsh­ips in August.

Since being barred from the 800m, Burundi’s Niyonsaba turned her attention to the 5,000, winning the Diamond League Final in 2021.

She was disqualifi­ed in her heat of the 5,000m at the Tokyo Olympics for a lane violation, while Semenya failed to qualify for the Games.

Namibia’s Mboma, prevented from running the 400m, switched to the 200m, winning silver in Tokyo.

DSD athletes have male testes but do not produce enough of the hormone Dihydrotes­tosterone (DHT) that is necessary for the formation of male external genitalia.

Coe said the decisions were made in consultati­on with numerous stakeholde­rs including 40 member federation­s, coaches, athletes, plus a range of community groups including trans groups, United Nations experts and the Internatio­nal Olympic Committee.

Swimming’s world governing body World Aquatics voted last June to bar transgende­r women from elite competitio­n if they had experience­d any part of male puberty. A scientific panel had found that even after reducing their testostero­ne levels through medication, transgende­r women still had a significan­t advantage.

That vote passed with 71% of the national federation­s in favour.

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