New World Athletics Regulations Impact Transgender Women Athletes

New World Athletics (WA) regulations prohibit some transgender women from competing in female track and field events starting March 31, 2023.
WA consulted various stakeholders before making the decision, with the majority favoring the exclusion due to potential physical advantages.
A working group led by a transgender individual will be formed to evaluate the issue over the next year.
Pro-LGBTQ rights groups criticize the decision as discriminatory and highlight the lack of scientific consensus on athletic advantages for transgender athletes.
WA also tightened restrictions on athletes with Differences in Sex Development (DSD), potentially affecting high-profile athletes like Caster Semenya.


World Athletics (WA) has announced regulations that will prohibit some transgender women from competing in female track and field events.

The rules, which take effect on March 31, apply to male-to-female transgender athletes who have experienced male puberty.

WA President Sebastian Coe stated that fairness for female athletes is the governing body’s top priority.

Wide Consultation Process Preceded Decision

WA consulted various stakeholders, including its member federations, the Global Athletics Coaches Academy, Athletes’ Commission, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and transgender and human rights groups.

The majority of these stakeholders believed that transgender athletes should not compete in the female category due to potential physical advantages.

Coe announced the formation of a working group, led by a transgender individual, to evaluate the issue over the next year.

Opposition and Ongoing Debate

Pro-LGBTQ rights groups, such as Athlete Ally and Stonewall, have criticized the decision as discriminatory.

They argue that there is no evidence that transgender women have an advantage in athletics, and the new regulations do not address real threats to women’s sports, such as unequal pay and lack of resources.

Scientific debate about the relationship between androgenic hormones like testosterone and athletic advantage remains unresolved.

WA has acknowledged that there is limited experimental data on the topic.

A 2017 report in the journal Sports Medicine found no consistent research to support the idea that transgender people have an athletic advantage over their cisgender peers.

Regulations on Athletes with Differences in Sex Development

The WA Council also decided to tighten restrictions on athletes with Differences in Sex Development (DSD).

DSD athletes must now maintain their blood testosterone levels below 2.5 nanomoles per liter for two years, down from the previous threshold of 5 nanomoles per liter, and only one year of maintenance.

These regulations may affect high-profile athletes like South Africa’s Caster Semenya, a double Olympic 800m champion.

Coe emphasized that WA is not saying “no” to transgender inclusion forever, but rather, the integrity of the female category in athletics is currently paramount.

As more evidence becomes available, the organization will review its position.

Many sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), have adopted guidelines based on hormone levels, particularly testosterone, to regulate transgender athletes’ participation.

Background on Transgender Athletes in Sports

The participation of transgender athletes in sports has become a contentious issue in recent years.

Several factors contribute to the debate, including concerns about fairness and safety, as well as the intersection of sports and politics.

The Role of Hormone Therapy

Many sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), have adopted guidelines based on hormone levels, particularly testosterone, to regulate transgender athletes’ participation.

Testosterone is an androgenic hormone that plays a crucial role in developing and maintaining male traits and characteristics.

Transgender women (assigned male at birth) usually undergo hormone therapy to reduce testosterone levels, leading to a decrease in muscle mass and strength.

Conversely, transgender men (assigned female at birth) may undergo hormone therapy to increase testosterone levels, enhancing muscle development and strength.

Competing Guidelines and Regulations

Different sports organizations have different guidelines regarding the participation of transgender athletes.

The IOC, for instance, has allowed transgender athletes to compete since 2004, with guidelines updated in 2015.

According to the updated guidelines, transgender women can compete in women’s events if their testosterone levels have been below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months. Transgender men can compete in men’s events without restriction.

Other organizations, like the NCAA in the United States, have adopted similar guidelines based on hormone levels.

However, policies vary significantly across countries and sports, and some organizations have more restrictive or less inclusive regulations.

Political and Social Context

The issue of transgender athletes in sports has become highly politicized, with some arguing that transgender women have an unfair advantage over cisgender women due to their biological makeup, while others contend that excluding transgender athletes is discriminatory and reinforces harmful stereotypes.

Transgender rights advocates argue that sports should be inclusive and promote a diverse range of participants.

They also point to the lack of scientific consensus on the relationship between hormone levels and athletic performance as a reason to avoid blanket bans or restrictions.

On the other hand, some individuals and groups argue that transgender women, in particular, may have an unfair advantage due to their exposure to testosterone during puberty.

This advantage, they claim, could undermine the fairness and integrity of women’s sports.

In conclusion, the issue of transgender athletes in sports is complex and multifaceted.

As new research emerges and societal attitudes evolve, sports organizations will continue to grapple with finding a balance between inclusion, fairness, and maintaining the integrity of competitive sports.

Craig Miller

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