World Athletics to exclude trans women from female events

Graham Robson March 24, 2023

World Athletics is to exclude transgender women who have gone through male puberty from female events with the body’s president, Lord Sebastian Coe, saying “decisive action” had been taken to “protect the female category in our sport”.

Lord Coe told a news conference in Monaco: “The council has agreed to exclude male-to-female transgender athletes, who have been through male puberty, from female world ranking competitions from 31 March.

“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 issue is thorny as sports try to strike a balance between inclusivity and making sure there is no unfair advantage.”

Lord Coe

LGBTQ+ campaign group Stonewall described the decision as “disappointing” – and criticised World Athletics for “closing the door” on trans people competing at an international level.

Lord Coe said the decision was open to being challenged and was not “written in stone” – but vowed World Athletics would to “vigorously defend” its position.

The decision to exclude transgender women was made after a consultation with a number of stakeholders including 40 member federations, athletes and coaches, together with community groups including trans organisations, UN experts, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Para Athletics, Lord Coe said.

“The majority of those consulted stated that transgender athletes should not be competing in the female category,” he said.

“Many believe there is insufficient evidence that trans women do not retain advantage over biological women, and want more evidence that any physical advantages have been ameliorated before they are willing to consider an option for inclusion into the female category.”

The new rules will also impact athletes with differences in sex development (DSD) – a group of rare conditions involving genes, hormones and reproductive organs, which means a person’s sex development is different to others.

Athletes with DSD include two-times Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, 2020 200m Olympic silver medallist Christine Mboma, and Francine Niyonsaba, who finished runner-up to Semenya in the 800m race at the 2016 Olympics.

Caster Semenya

The maximum amount of plasma testosterone for DSD athletes will be cut in half, Lord Coe told the conference.

The announcement comes after British Athletics called for transgender women to compete with men in an “open category” in February.

The “open” category would replace the current male category, the governing body says – as it demands a law change to preserve women’s events for those who were female at birth.

Swimming’s world governing body, FINA, voted to effectively ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s elite races and explore setting up an “open” category in June last year.