Transgender women to be banned from top track and field events

World Athletics also issued strict testosterone limits on athletes with differences in sex development who participate in women's events.
Lane 3 of a track.
Posted at 8:50 AM, Mar 24, 2023

World Athletics, the governing body for top track and field events worldwide, announced Thursday a ban on transgender participation in women’s events for those who went through male puberty. 

The ban goes into effect March 31. 

World Athletics said it first proposed a cap allowing participation, so long as the participating athlete keeps a testosterone level below 2.5nmol/L for 24 months. 

“It became apparent that there was little support within the sport for the option that was first presented to stakeholders,” World Athletics said in its announcement. “In these circumstances, the council decided to prioritize fairness and the integrity of the female competition before inclusion.”

Its decision comes after the International Olympic Committee ended previous guidances on transgender inclusion in women’s events and instead gave each sport’s organizing committee the power to decide. 

Last year, World Swimming issued a similar policy to World Athletics.

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The World Athletics Council said it would form a working group for 12 months to further study transgender participation. 

“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,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said. “We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage which will inevitably develop over the coming years. As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount."

The decision comes as U.S. states are deciding on legislation to regulate participation. The NCAA continues to permit transgender participation in female sports but has sport-specific testosterone limits. 

World Athletics also ruled on including athletes with differences in sex development. These athletes must keep their testosterone below 2.5 nmol/L for a minimum of 24 months to compete internationally in any female event. 

There were previously testosterone limits for such athletes competing in events from the 400 meters to one mile. 

The decision to limit testosterone levels for athletes with differences in sex development could impact a number of elite athletes, including Caster Semenya. Semenya, who won gold at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016 in the 800 meters event, was told she could not compete unless she took testosterone blockers. 

Despite attempts to qualify in both shorter and longer distances, she was unable to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.