World Athletics, the governing body for athletics, has announced a ban on transgender women competing in the female category at international athletics events. The decision was made in order to prioritize fairness and integrity in the sport. The ban will exclude male-to-female transgender athletes who have gone through male puberty from female world ranking competitions from March 31 this year.
The previous rules allowed transgender women to compete in the female category if their testosterone levels were below five nano-moles per litre over a year. This was later reviewed in January, as World Athletics announced a tighter policy which was only to reduce testosterone levels to 2.5 nmol/L and increase the transition period to two years.
The decision was met with a backlash from women’s rights campaigners and female athletes who wanted a blanket ban on transgender athletes competing against other women. World Athletics, however, stated that the decision was guided by their overarching principle of protecting the female category.
However, following a consultation period, World Athletics has decided to exclude transgender women from the female category.
Seb Coe, the president of World Athletics, said at a press conference in Monaco, “The council has agreed to exclude male-to-female transgender athletes who have been through male puberty from female world ranking competitions from March 31 this year. The decision that the council made is a primarily principle-based decision and that is the overarching need to protect the female category. This is what our sport is here to do.”
World Athletics’ decision puts them in conflict with the International Olympic Committee, which is exploring a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at Paris 2024 as ‘neutrals.’ Athletes from Russia and Belarus will continue to be excluded from competition, including the Olympics, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The decision by World Athletics follows that of swimming’s world governing body, FINA, who announced a ban on transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s races last summer.
The ban on transgender women in the female category is likely to face legal challenges. However, Coe stated that World Athletics would vigorously defend their position and do what they think is in the best interest of the sport.