Athletics could bar transgender women from elite women’s competitions after the sport’s governing body, Sebastian Coe, announced its regulations are under review, saying “biology trumps gender.”
The President of World Athletics announced that the sport would review its transgender and DSD (gender development differences) policies later this year.
Coe has supported swimming association Fina’s move to ban women who have experienced any part of male puberty from participating in female events.
“We see an international federation asserting its primacy in setting rules, regulations and policies that are in the best interest of its sport,” said Coe. “That’s how it should be. We have always believed and consistently emphasized that biology takes precedence over gender and we will continue to review our regulations accordingly.”
Trans women can compete in elite women’s track and field events under current rules provided they lower testosterone levels below 5 nmol/L for a year, but this could now be replaced by stricter regulations.
“My responsibility is to protect the integrity of women’s sport,” added Coe. “We take this very seriously and if it means we need to make adjustments to the protocols in the future, we will. And I’ve always made it clear that if we’re ever pushed into a corner where we’re making a judgment about fairness or inclusion, I will always side with fairness.
“We have two categories in our sport: one is age and one is gender. Age, because we think it’s better if Olympic champions don’t compete against 14-year-olds in community sports. And gender, because without gender segregation, no woman would ever win another sporting event.
“We’ve always been guided by science, and the science is pretty clear: we know that testosterone is the key factor in performance. I’m really tired of having any more of these discussions with second-rate sociologists who are sitting there trying to tell me or the scientific community that there might be some problem. There is not any. Testosterone is the key performance factor.”
There are currently no trans women competing at an international level. The issue of DSD women’s participation is more relevant, however, as there have been several Olympic champions, including Caster Semenya and Christine Mboma, both of whom still compete – outside the World Athletics-mandated 400m distance to a mile, within which DSD athletes need to reduce testosterone levels.
The current rules mean Semenya cannot run her preferred 800m, but she was in action at the IAAF World Championships on Wednesday, where she retired from the 5000m heats.
Female DSD athletes have male testicles but do not form the male external genitalia. Under Fina’s new rules, which exclude women who have experienced part of male puberty, stars like Semenya would not be able to compete in women’s sports at all, which would be a highly controversial path for athletics.
“We have always said that our regulations in this area are a living document, specific to our sport, and we will follow the science. We continue to study and research and contribute to the growing evidence that testosterone is a key factor in performance and have scheduled a discussion of our DSD and transgender policies with our council later this year.”