The World Athletics Council is voting on Thursday on a proposal to change its rules on transgender women athletes that would make it harder for them to compete in women’s track and field events.
Here is an explanation of what the proposal is and the governing body’s reasoning behind the change:
WHY IS WORLD ATHLETICS VOTING ON TRANSGENDER ELIGIBILITY RULES?
Transgender rights have become a major talking point as sports seek to balance inclusivity with ensuring there is no unfair advantage. LGBTQI advocacy groups say excluding trans athletes amounts to discrimination.
World Aquatics voted last year to restrict participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions and create a working group to establish an “open” category.
At the time, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe praised swimming’s governing body for taking the decision and said the World Athletics council would also discuss its regulations.
WHAT IS WORLD ATHLETICS’ PROPOSAL?
In January, World Athletics said it was consulting with member federations on a proposal to change the rules on participation of transgender women in female competitions.
The governing body said it arrived at its “preferred option” after reviewing a number of new and existing scientific studies and observations from the field.
The body said “We will follow the science... in order to protect the female category, maintain fairness in our competitions, and remain as inclusive as possible.”
That option is to halve the current maximum amount of plasma testosterone permitted for transgender women and those with differences in sex development (DSD) to 2.5 nanomoles per litre from the current 5 nanomoles.
The proposal also doubles the time an athlete needs to remain below the new 2.5 nanomoles threshold to two years.
World Athletics said floating the proposal in January was a way of gathering constructive feedback and that it could still be changed before being presented at the council meeting.
WHO ARE DSD ATHLETES?
DSD or intersex athletes are broadly described as having XY sex chromosomes, a blood testosterone level in the male range, and the ability to use testosterone circulating within their bodies.
Currently, DSD athletes have only to reduce their testosterone in events ranging from 400m to a mile.
The most high-profile DSD athlete is Caster Semenya, the South African double Olympic 800m champion. Namibia’s Christine Mboma, who won silver at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, is also a DSD athlete.
IF ENACTED, HOW WILL THE PROPOSAL AFFECT TRANS AND DSD ATHLETES?
Athletes with high natural testosterone levels will need to take medication to reduce those levels to the new limits.
Athletes will need to maintain their testosterone levels for a two-year window to be eligible for competition, effectively ruling them out of the Paris Olympics in 2024 as well as this year’s World Championships in Budapest.
WHAT IS THE POSITION OF OTHER SPORTS ON TRANSGENDER ATHLETES?
World Rugby has banned transgender players from competing at the elite level of the women’s game, citing safety concerns.
Rugby league has banned transgender players from women’s international competition, while the International Cycling Union (UCI) has tightened its eligibility rules.
A number of sports announced reviews of their transgender inclusion policies following World Aquatics’ decision to restrict the participation of transgender athletes.
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