On Mar. 23, the World Athletics (WA) Council announced its decision to ban transgender individuals from competing in track and field internationally and created new restrictions for athletes with differences in sex development. Following in the footsteps of World Aquatics, starting Mar. 31, all transgender women who transitioned after going through male puberty will no longer be allowed to compete against other women. Additionally, any female athletes with differences in sex development will have to maintain their testosterone at a maximum of 2.5 nanomoles per liter of blood — half of what the requirement was in 2018. Sebastian Coe, the president of the WA council, explained, “Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups, but we continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations.” The council plans to create a group including transgender athletes to promote transgender inclusivity in the coming years.
The WA Council justified their decision, citing that they had administered research over the last decade, which led them to conclude that transgender women have advanatges over biological women, impacting overal performance. In the past, the WA council criticized athletes like Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic Gold medalist in the 800-meter sprint with sex development differences. According to 2018 World Athletics regulations, to suppress her naturally high testosterone levels, she would have been required to use birth control pills, hormone shots, or undergo surgery. Semanya refused to continue these treatments, explaining that “It made me sick, made me gain weight, [have] panic attacks. I didn’t know if I was going to have a heart attack” and she has since been unable to compete in international track and field.
Similarly, last June the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) — swimming’s world governing council now known as World Aquatics — implemented new restrictions for transgender athletes. All transgender female swimmers are now required to prove they have not undergone male puberty past the Tanner Stage two or after age 12 in order to compete in the women’s category. World Aquatics’s president, Husain Al-Musallam, explained the reasoning behind the council’s decision: “We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions.” Al-Musallam continued, “FINA will always welcome every athlete. The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level.” Although there are no transgender women currently competing in these sports, both of these policies will affect any transgender athletes who wish to compete internationally in track and field or swimming in the future.
(Sources: NPR, AP News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine)