Trans in Sports

World Athletics Doubles Down on Transphobic Sports Restrictions

World Athletics is proposing stricter requirements on the participation of intersex and transgender athletes in women’s categories. The “preferred option” of the working proposal would halve the maximum amount of testosterone allowed in the bloodstream, and it would double the amount of time athletes are expected to maintain those levels.

World Athletics is a sports regulating body that oversees internationally recognized rules and standards for athletics (track and field, and various other running and walking competitions). In the past, the organization required transgender athletes to maintain a maximum 5 nanomoles of testosterone in their bloodstream for a period of at least one year. These rules were already at odds with the framework set out by the International Olympics Committee (IOC).

In 2021, the IOC reversed blanket requirements for transgender participation, including hormones, while leaving specific requirements up to individual regulating bodies. In response to this new framework, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said, “I’m very happy that we have our mature regulations that are in place…Our regulations will remain in place.”

“It’s very important that we follow the research that we’ve done,” Coe added. “We’ve got longitudinal work that now goes back nearly 10 years.” World Athletics’s usage of at least one of those studies has been called “misleading” by the study’s own authors.

Now, World Athletics is going a step further, proposing to limit “the maximum amount of plasma testosterone for transgender women and those with differences in sex development at 2.5 nanomoles per liter — half of the current limit,” according to Reuters. Additionally, they propose to increase the period of time in which those levels must be maintained from one year to two.

The proposal is not yet final, and the organization is in the process of ​​”consulting with member federations” on new testosterone requirements. World Athletics reiterated this in a statement: “Putting forward a preferred option is 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.”

In contrast, when updating their framework, the IOC pointed to the dubious nature of using testosterone as a measure. “One of the things I think the framework does is move us on from just considering testosterone,” the IOC’s Medical and Scientific Director, Richard Budgett said at the time. “It’s perfectly clear now that performance is not proportional to your endogenous, in-built testosterone. What we’re really interested in is the outcome. What this does is change the process of getting that outcome of performance.”

According to the UK’s Telegraph, World Athletics will make a final decision sometime in March.

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