World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field and other running sports, will ban transgender women who began transitioning after puberty from its women’s events. The ban takes effect on March 31, the date of the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
However, the organization also said that it will also form a working group that will spend 12 months further considering the issue of transgender inclusion, suggesting that the ban may not be permanent.
In a statement announcing its decision, World Athletics said that during January and February, it consulted with “various stakeholders” including member federations, the Global Athletics Coaches Academy and Athletes’ Commission, the International Olympic Committee, and transgender and human rights groups.
“There was little support within the sport” to allow trans women to compete so long as they maintained a testosterone level below 2.5 nanomoles per liter of blood for two years before competing.
The organization announced the same testosterone levels will be required of female intersex athletes, effectively banning South African runner Caster Semenya and other cisgender women with naturally elevated testosterone levels from competing unless they take hormone-suppressing medications, which can make them feel ill.
“There are currently no transgender athletes competing internationally in athletics and consequently no athletics-specific evidence of the impact these athletes would have on the fairness of female competition in athletics,” World Athletics wrote. “In these circumstances, the Council decided to prioritize fairness and the integrity of the female competition before inclusion.”
World Athletics also conceded that the issue needs further research. To this end, it said it will create a working group to study the topic for one year. The group will include “an independent chair, up to three Council Members, two athletes from the Athletes’ Commission, a transgender athlete, three representatives of the Member Federations, and representatives of the World Athletics Health and Science Department.”
The group will consult specifically with transgender athletes to seek their views and will also review and commission additional research to help fill any knowledge gaps about trans-inclusion in women’s sports. The group will then submit a report of recommendations to the World Athletics Council.
“Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups,” 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.”
World Athletics’ announcement comes as other sports governing bodies figure out their own trans policies.
Last June, the International Rugby League (IRL) announced a temporary ban on trans women from women’s matches as it conducts research and finalizes its inclusion policy. Shortly before the IRL’s announcement, FIFA and World Aquatics (previously FINA) both announced bans on trans athletes from women’s events.
That same month, the German Football Association — Deutscher Fußball-Bund e.V. (DFB) — announced rules allowing trans, intersex, and nonbinary players to decide whether to play on men’s or women’s soccer teams. The following month, British Triathlon announced its plan to force trans women and nonbinary athletes to compete in an “open” category alongside cis men.
In August 2022, the World Boxing Council banned trans boxers from fighting against cisgender opponents. The organization’s president Mauricio Sulaiman announced the council’s intention to create separate divisions solely for trans men and trans women if there’s enough interest among trans boxers.
In the U.S., Republicans nationwide have authored numerous state bills that would ban trans women from competing on girls’ and women’s teams. Despite this, 176 female pro athletes signed onto a court amicus brief in support of trans women being allowed to play on sports teams matching their gender identity.