The World Athletics Council has voted to ban transgender women from participating in women’s international track and field competitions, with the governing body stating that it wants to prioritize fairness before inclusion.
Starting March 31, transgender athletes who have undergone male puberty will be barred from competing in women’s events, the council announced Thursday. The decision mirrors a similar rule that was imposed by swimming’s world governing body last year.
There are currently no transgender athletes who are competing internationally at the highest levels of track.
Separately, athletes with differences in sex development, or DSD — broadly defined as those with XY sex chromosomes — will be required to undergo hormone-suppressing treatment for two years before being allowed to compete internationally in any event’s female category. DSD athletes were previously only restricted in events ranging from 400 meters to a mile. The athletes already competing in those restricted events will be temporarily allowed to compete if they undergo a six-month testosterone-suppressing plan, the council said.
This new rule will affect 13 athletes, World Athletics Council President Sebastian Coe said at a press conference. These athletes include two-time Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya, who has said that she would not undergo hormone-suppressing treatment again after receiving it a decade ago under previous Olympics rules, the Associated Press reported.
The council’s decision was “guided by the overarching need to protect the female category,” Coe said. “That is what our sport is here to do and I think that the council has done that here today.”
Coe said World Athletes consulted outside stakeholders — including the International Olympic Committee, the Global Athletics Coaches Academy, and transgender and human rights groups — before reaching its decision. He said the council also considered research and evidence demonstrating the physical advantages that DSD athletes have in the female category.
“We’re not saying no forever,” he said, citing the need for more research and understanding.
To learn more, Coe said the council will establish a 12-month working group that will ultimately present recommendations to the council on ways to improve its handling of transgender and DSD issues in athletics. Its work will include meetings with transgender athletes and reviewing and/or commissioning research.
“We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage which will inevitably develop over the coming years,” Cole said in a statement. “As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount.”