New trans & intersex athletics restrictions

28th March 2023

New trans & intersex athletics restrictions

World Athletics announces updates to regulations 

In a bitterly disappointing outcome, World Athletics has updated regulations for eligibility to women’s world ranking athletics competitions to further restrict intersex athletes / athletes with innate variations in sex characteristics; and to entirely ban transgender women.

In updating its Eligibility Regulations For The Female Classification (Athletes with differences of sex development) the regulations have now become far harsher. The new criteria will now require athletes to suppress their testosterone levels to under 2.5 nmol/L, a change from the previous position of 10 nmol/L. And athletes will now have to show evidence of this suppression for a minimum of 24 months in a change from the previous position of 6 months. These restrictions had previously covered only a few events but the new regulations extend this to all events.

The Eligibility Regulations For Transgender Athletes now entirely excludes all transgender women from participation. World Athletics have noted that as there are currently no transgender athletes actually competing at international level, that there is no evidence relevant to athletics upon which they’ve based this decision. Instead they’ve spoken to many in the sport to gauge opinion and claimed to find little support for any other decision.

Speaking to Athlete Ally in reaction to the news, two-time National Champion and Team USA multisport athlete Chris Mosier, said: “World Athletics’ decision to ban all transgender women and place harsh restrictions on athletes with intersex traits does not protect the integrity of women’s sports and only further policing of women’s bodies”.

The International Olympic Committee released their Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-discrimination at the end of 2021 which embeds a human rights based approach into policy making. It was the intention of the IOC for this framework to be approached on a holistic basis rather than sports federations applying cherry picked principles from it. The World Athletics position challenges the fundamental spirit of the IOC Framework as well as failing to align to some of its principles.  

Given that World Athletics had previously indicated a less harsh policy for transgender athletes, it’s disappointing to see them now being led in their policy-making by popular opinion rather than evidence, and is sadly symptomatic of the current hostility towards trans people and the current pitchfork politics intent on chasing trans people from public life. World Athletics have also agreed to set up a Working Group for a period of 12 months to “further consider the issue of transgender inclusion”. The priority of this group should be to address the significant inequality in participation and inclusion experienced by trans people rather than to support further exclusion but when the approach has already been to instigate a ban first and discuss later, this seems somewhat hollow.  

The news from World Athletics comes at the start of the Football v Transphobia Week of Action buried in an announcement about Russian and Belarussian athletes, and coming in to force on the International Transgender Day of Visibility on 31st March.  

Written on 28th March 2023.