Thursday 30 March 2023

World Athletics bans transgender athletes from competing in female category at international events

 World Athletics, the international governing body for the field of athletics, has announced that male-to-female (MTF) transgender athletes cannot compete in international events for biological females.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe confirmed the ban, explaining that no transgender athlete who had undergone male puberty would be allowed to join world-ranking female category events starting March 31. He added that the ban was “guided by the overarching principle which is to protect the female category.”

“We continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations,” said Coe. “We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage. [While] we will review our position, we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount.”

The governing body said back in January that its “preferred option” was to continue allowing MTF athletes to compete in the female category, albeit with tighter eligibility rules that use testosterone limits as basis for inclusion. However, this option had “little support” when it was presented to stakeholders.

Many argue that MTF athletes should not compete in women’s sports at the international level, a sentiment shared by many biological female athletes themselves. This is because MTF athletes retain the advantages imbued by male puberty. Moreover, MTF athletes make records impossible to beat without resorting to performance-enhancing drugs.

According to Coe, there are currently no transgender athletes competing internationally in athletics. Other sports, however, have been infiltrated with MTF competitors. Two names that come to mind are weightlifter Laurel Hubbard and swimmer Lia Thomas. Hubbard competed during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the women’s weightlifting category, representing New Zealand.  

World swimming body earlier banned trans athletes in elite female category

Back in June 2022, World Aquatics – the international governing body for swimming and other aquatic sports – voted to ban MTF transgender swimmers from competing in women’s elite events if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.

World Aquatics approved the 34-page policy after 71 percent of its 152 members voted for it. Husain Al-Musallam, the president of the world swimming body, said they were trying to “protect competitive fairness with the new rule.”

Under the rule, MTF transgender athletes can compete in the women’s category “provided they have not experienced any part of male puberty.” Thus, Thomas is automatically disqualified as “she” had undergone male puberty and had only identified as transgender during “her” freshman year.

Coe welcomed the World Aquatics rule at the time, insisting that “fairness is non-negotiable.”

Other governing bodies for different sports also issued similar bans. In 2020, World Rugby became the first international sports federation to announce that MTF transgender athletes cannot compete at the elite and international level of women’s competition. The Rugby Football League and Rugby Football Union also followed suit, banning transgender athletes from competing in categories meant for biological females.

As expected, several transgender athletes rebuked the decision by Coe and World Athletics.

Canadian transgender cyclist Kristen Worley blasted the announcement as “disheartening and disappointing.” Worley continued: “What’s happening is the most vulnerable are being excluded from the sport more for political reasons and not based on science and research. This has effects not just at the international levels, but consequently over communities across the globe, including communities in the United States.”

“There’s no nice way of putting this,” remarked transgender runner Ricki Coughlan. “The forces of hate that are out there that don’t want transgender people to exist in our society … will take this as a win and will then say ‘OK, let’s move onto the next thing.'”

Several biological female athletes, meanwhile, lauded World Athletics for its decision.

Olympian Emily Diamond, who won a bronze medal in the 400-meter relay event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, called the ban on transgender athletes “a big step for fairness and protecting the female category.” Marathon runner Mara Yamauchi called the announcement “good news” in a tweet, but pointed out that it was “odd to celebrate something which is common sense.”

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