World Athletics (WA) has proposed to its members that transgender women continue to be allowed to compete in the women’s categories of international competitions, a different approach to other sports which have banned them from elite competition.
The umbrella athletics federation has already submitted the document to the individual member federations and will consult with them as a matter of priority before the final vote in March.
In a statement, WA wrote that it was “preferred to tighten competition licensing rules, but wants to use testosterone restrictions as the deciding factor”.
Other sports, such as swimming, have effectively barred transgender women from top-level events due to concerns that they have an unfair advantage.
The FINA International Swimming Federation applies the rule to athletes who have gone through any stage of the male puberty process.
The World Athletics Organization wrote in a statement: “Our rules will follow the science and the decade and more research we have in this area to protect the women’s division, keep our competitions fair and remain as inclusive as possible.”
They added that the most appropriate is to tighten the rules that cover both transgender athletes and those who have differences in sexual development compared to the general population.
The most prominent athlete in this regard is the two-time Olympic champion in the 800 meters Caster Semenya from the Republic of South Africa.
Under WA’s proposals, transgender and gender-disabled athletes would have to reduce their blood testosterone from the current maximum of five nanomoles per liter to below 2.5 and stay below that level for two years, rather than one, as has been the case in the past.
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The umbrella athletics association added that it was still gathering feedback on its proposals, but that did not mean they would present the proposals to the WA council or actually adopt them.
The proposals were criticized by some athletes. Among them is British shot put competitor Amelia Strickler, who competed at the World Championships in Oregon last year.
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“If that happens, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of world records in the hands of trans athletes. I’m really concerned, but it’s about protecting women,” AFP quoted her as saying to Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.