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23 Mar, 2023 20:27

Trans athletes banned from female competitions

The World Athletics Council says it will continue to “maintain fairness” for women in sports
Trans athletes banned from female competitions

Transgender people will no longer be able to compete in female sports competitions, the World Athletics Council has ruled. From April on, any athlete who has been through male puberty will not be allowed to compete in women’s track and field events, regardless of their current hormonal levels. 

“The Council has agreed to exclude male or female transgender athletes who have been through male puberty from female world ranking competitions from March 31 this year,” said World Athletics president, Lord Sebastian Coe, at a press-conference on Thursday.

He explained that the Council had held discussions with stakeholders, including 40 national federations, the International Olympic Committee and trans groups about how to incorporate transgender athletes. The majority agreed that trans athletes should not compete in female events. 

“Many believe there is insufficient evidence that trans women do not retain advantage over biological women and want more evidence that any physical advantages have been ameliorated before they are willing to consider an option for inclusion into the female category,” Coe said. 

“We continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations,” he added.

Trans participation in female sports remains a contentious topic, not least of all because of the performances by some trans athletes like US swimmer Lia Thomas and New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who both excelled in their respective sports.

Various athletic associations have taken different positions on the issue. In 2021, the International Olympic Committee said there should be "no presumption of advantage" for transgender women in competitions.

While lauded by transgender and equality advocates, the IOC has also faced criticism and repeated calls for issuing more specific requirements for some sports. In December 2022, it passed the buck to individual sporting federations, allowing them to issue more specific eligibility criteria when they deem it necessary.

In 2022, the international swimming governing body World Aquatics (formerly FINA) banned transgender participation in women’s events for athletes who had completed any part of male puberty. It then vowed to create a new "open" category. The International Rugby League later adopted similar rules.

Coe himself argued last year that "testosterone is the key determinant in performance" as he vowed to protect "the integrity and future of women’s sport."