Coe claims Mboma’s Tokyo 200m silver shows testosterone rules are working

  • Namibian not allowed to run 400m due to controversial rules
  • Sebastian Coe says 200m display ‘vindicated 400m decision’

The World Athletics president, Sebastian Coe, has defended the sport’s controversial testosterone rules, saying that 18-year-old Christine Mboma’s late surge to win a surprise 200m silver medal suggests that they are vindicated.

The Namibian powered home late to finish in 21.81sec – the fastest time ever by someone under 20. And when Lord Coe was asked whether the youngster could break Florence Griffith Joyner’s world record he replied: “I think it’s possible,” adding that this “probably” would then give the governing body more questions to contend with where the rules are concerned.

However Mboma and her compatriot Beatrice Masilingi, who finished sixth in the same race, are actually better over 400m, where they hold three of the top seven fastest times in the world this year. They are not allowed to run that distance, though, as women with so-called differences of sex development (DSDs) and naturally higher levels of testosterone are banned from competing internationally between 400m and a mile, unless they have taken medication to lower their testosterone to 5 nmol/L.

World Athletics argues that its rules are justified because the vast majority of females have around 0.12-1.79 nmol/L of testosterone in their bodies – while those with a DSD are in the male range of 7.7-29.4 nmol/L. However the rules have sharply divided opinion, with the double 800m Olympic champion Caster Semenya still fighting to have them overturned.

On Mboma’s performance, Coe added: “It was pretty observable that the last 30m or 40m of the 200m were impactful. And, actually, I think that vindicated the decision about the 400m. If you are finishing a 200m like that, you extend the runway. That in a way supports the judgment that was made.”

He continued: “Was it right to do what we did at the distances? Yes, and I think the 800m yesterday was a very good example of that. It says a lot about some of the policies we have adopted that we have that kind of race, and people like Athing Mu and Keely Hodgkinson coming through.”

Sign up for our Tokyo 2020 briefing with all the news, views and previews for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Coe did not rule out the possibility of looking at the DSD rules governing other distances: “My responsibility, as uncomfortable as it is, is always to do whatever I can to maintain the integrity of competition and that level playing field. We’ve never said that there may not be advantages at lower levels elsewhere.”

Coe also suggested that different classifications might yet come into sport in the future – including an “open” category for almost everyone and a restricted “biological female”. “I don’t think that’s where most of my council are at the moment,” he said. “But this is a debate at the moment. I’ve heard coaches and people who are interested in the sport, and more broadly from the sport, have discussed that.”


Sean Ingle at the Olympic Stadium

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sebastian Coe backs ‘purple patch’ Laura Muir to paint Tokyo gold in 2020
Sebastian Coe, a double Olympic champion, said there is ‘no question’ Laura Muir can win middle-distance gold at next year’s Tokyo Olympics

Sean Ingle

04, Mar, 2019 @9:59 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe warns it will be harder than ever to cheat at Tokyo Olympics
Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics president, said athletics drug cheats will be ‘fearlessly weeded out’

Sean Ingle

22, Dec, 2020 @5:00 PM

Article image
Tokyo Olympics team has 'cast-iron will' for 2021 event, says Sebastian Coe
Sebastian Coe said he has ‘a pretty high level of confidence’ the Tokyo Games will happen in 2021 despite daily coronavirus cases in Japan reaching a record level this week

Sean Ingle

10, Dec, 2020 @5:58 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe shrugs off concerns that Nike track spikes give unfair advantage
The World Athletics president has warned against stifling innovation as concerns have been raised over the slew of recent world records

Sean Ingle

03, Jan, 2021 @10:00 PM

Article image
Team GB's Olympic contenders should seek advice from Ennis-Hill, says Coe
Sebastian Coe has urged Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson to seek advice from Jessica Ennis-Hill before Tokyo Games

Sean Ingle

31, Dec, 2020 @10:00 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe says delaying Olympics relieved 'mental turmoil' of athletes
The president of World Athletics said ‘sport, on this occasion, had to take a back seat’ over postponing of Tokyo Olympics until 2021

Ewan Murray

29, Mar, 2020 @4:17 PM

Article image
Unassailable Thompson-Herah strikes second gold of Tokyo 2020 in 200m final
It took 21.53 seconds on a sticky Tuesday night to put in place the final peg in the Thompson-Herah Supremacy

Barney Ronay at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium

03, Aug, 2021 @1:03 PM

Article image
Coe warns Christian Coleman not to expect Olympic deal over missed tests
Sebastian Coe has warned Christian Coleman not to expect any special deals for the Tokyo Olympics if he is banned for missing anti-doping tests

Sean Ingle

25, Jun, 2020 @9:30 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe expects Tokyo Olympics to go ahead after test event in Japan
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has reiterated that the Tokyo Olympics will take place in July despite the rising number of Covid cases in Japan

Sean Ingle

05, May, 2021 @12:01 PM

Article image
Tokyo Olympics: athletes could be deported if they break strict Covid rules
Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics must eat alone, be tested daily and refrain from talking in confined spaces under new Covid rules

Sean Ingle

15, Jun, 2021 @3:32 PM