World Athletics proposals to preserve path for trans women in female category

  • ‘Preferred option’ would halve permitted plasma testosterone
  • Spokesperson says World Athletics would consult more widely

World Athletics is set to keep the door open for transgender women to compete at the highest level under controversial new proposals that will be voted on in March.

Under the governing body’s “preferred option”, the maximum permitted plasma testosterone for trans women would be halved from five nanomoles per litre to 2.5 nmol/L – and they would also have to stay below the permitted threshold for two years rather than 12 months as is currently the case.

However, that option is likely to prove contentious given that in its consultation document, seen by the Guardian, World Athletics accepts that trans women “retain an advantage in muscle mass, volume and strength over cis women after 12 months” of hormone treatment – and that “the limited experimental data” suggests that those advantages continue after that.

The document adds: “Exposure to puberty also results in sex differences in height, weight, wingspan (throws), pelvic and lower limbs architecture. These anatomical differences provide an athletic advantage after puberty for certain athletic events and will not respond to suppression of blood testosterone levels in post-pubertal trans women.”

However, World Athletics maintains that its preferred option would work as it would “allow significant (although not full reduction in anaerobic, aerobic and body composition) changes, while still providing a path for eligibility of trans women and 46 XY individuals to compete in the female category”.

The new rules would also apply to athletes with differences in sex development, such as Caster Semenya – who are 46 XY individuals with testes but were brought up as women – across every athletic discipline at elite level. As things stand, athletes with a DSD only have to reduce their testosterone in events ranging from 400m to a mile.

“Both DSD and transgender regulations apply to athletes who are 46 XY individuals aiming at competing in the female category,” the consultation document states.

“An analysis of DSD cases observed in elite athletes shows that most athletes are 46 XY persons who have testes that produce testosterone concentrations within the male range and who are not insensitive to the effects of androgens. As far as athletic performance is concerned, there is no significant difference between a 46 XY DSD individual, a cis male and a trans female prior to transition. Therefore, in this respect there is a need for consistency between the transgender and DSD regulations.”

A World Athletics spokesperson said that putting forward a preferred option was “the best way to gather constructive feedback, but this does not mean this is the option that will be presented to council or indeed adopted” and promised they would consult more widely in the coming weeks.

“In terms of our female eligibility regulations, we will follow the science and the decade and more of the research we have in this area in order to protect the female category, maintain fairness in our competitions and remain as inclusive as possible,” they added.


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Crisis at IAAF that threatens to bring athletics to its knees | Owen Gibson
Owen Gibson: The IAAF has been engulfed in crisis over doping allegations – but where does the governing body go from here?

Owen Gibson

13, Dec, 2014 @9:59 PM

Article image
IAAF braced for hammer blow of Dick Pound report with athletics in crisis
The former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dick Pound, will deliver on Monday a report into allegations of systemic doping in Russian athletics amid an ongoing crisis in the sport

Owen Gibson

07, Nov, 2015 @10:00 PM

Article image
Coe hints athletics may bar transgender women from female competition
Sebastian Coe suggested his sport may follow swimming’s lead, saying ‘biology trumps gender’ and World Athletics’ policies will reflect this

Sean Ingle

20, Jun, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe: IAAF right to seek court ruling over hyperandrogenism issue
IAAF president Sebastian Coe insists to create a level playing field in women’s sport the issue of hyperandrogenism must be dealt with by the court of arbitration for sport

Sean Ingle at the London Stadium

12, Aug, 2017 @9:00 PM

Article image
Mo Farah demands all drug cheats should be given life bans
Mo Farah wants automatic life bans to be imposed on all athletes found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs

Sean Ingle in Edinburgh

09, Jan, 2016 @4:48 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe ready to surge past Sergey Bubka in the race of his life | Owen Gibson
The IAAF presidential election could not come at a more important moment amid relentless doping allegations and an organisational malaise that has brought it to its lowest point since Ben Johnson crossed the line in Seoul

Owen Gibson

15, Aug, 2015 @8:00 PM

Article image
Sebastian Coe must put money where his mouth is to justify Pound support
Sebastian Coe faces a touch challenge to overcome lingering questions, despite the backing of Wada’s founding president Dick Pound, as he embarks on his roadmap to reform at IAAF

Owen Gibson

16, Jan, 2016 @10:00 PM

Article image
Russia must end systemic culture of doping and corruption, says IAAF
World governing body wants Russia to issue a mea culpa for its behaviour but IOC president Thomas Bach says he is confident Russia will compete at Rio 2016

Sean Ingle

14, Nov, 2015 @10:30 PM

Article image
Sepp Blatter and his ilk have ruined trust in sport’s leaders | Owen Gibson
Sport’s governing bodies need new faces at the helm to restore public trust that has been eroded by Sepp Blatter and his ilk, writes Owen Gibson

Owen Gibson

14, Nov, 2015 @9:00 PM

Article image
Coleman and Stefanidi offer hope to athletics – a sport in need of new names | Sean Ingle
The departure of Usain Bolt, track and field’s greatest weapon, means athletics needs to unearth new names to appeal to the next generation

Sean Ingle at the London Stadium

13, Aug, 2017 @8:00 AM