World Athletics bans transgender athletes from track, tightens testosterone rules

Transgender women who "have gone through male puberty" will be excluded from female world ranking track events while athletes with differences in sex development will face new regulations, World Athletics announced Thursday.

During a press conference, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe described the decision as "decisive action to protect the female category in our sport."

According to the council's statement, "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."

In order to continue research for transgender eligibility guidelines, the council announced a soon-to-come working group to determine how impacted athletes can still be included.

"We're not saying no forever," Coe said.

In June of last year, FINA rolled out similar rules restricting the participation of transgender swimmers in women's events. At the time, the governing body presented the developing idea of an "open competition" category to accommodate impacted athletes. Similarly to track, there were no transgender swimmers participating in elite levels of competition at the time.

The decision notably impacted Penn swimmer Lia Thomas, who became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history in March. Thomas met NCAA standards for competition after undergoing testosterone suppression therapy for more than two years and expressed hopes to compete professionally.

Even if Thomas had not graduated in May, she would not have been allowed to continue at the collegiate level since the NCAA said in January it would defer to the national and international bodies' rulings.

World Athletics has DSD athletes

World Athletics also reduced its testosterone threshold for all events, which will impact athletes with differences in sex development (DSD). According to the council, 13 athletes will be impacted by this change. Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, is part of that group. She was assigned female at birth and identifies as a woman. Her naturally higher testosterone levels have barred her from the 800 since 2019. She has since competed in longer events.

South Africa's Caster Semenya, left, Belarus' Marina Arzamasova, center, and United States' Kate Grace compete in a women's 800-meter semifinal during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, she is not transgender. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
There are currently no transgender athletes competing in elite track events, but South Africa's Caster Semenya is one of 13 athletes to be impacted by the new rules. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

DSD athletes were once required to reduce their blood testosterone level to below 5 nanomoles per liter; the mark has now been lowered to 2.5. Athletes are now being required to remain under that threshold for two years in order to compete internationally.

According to the council, DSD athletes who were already competing in previously unrestricted events will be granted interim provisions. This will require them to suppress their testosterone levels below 2.5nmol/L for a minimum of six months before they are allowed to compete again.

These new rules apply to the female category of every track and field event, where DSD athletes were initially only restricted in events ranging from 400 meters to a mile.

Last season, Semenya competed in races across 5,000 meters, 3,000 meters and 2,000 meters. In February, she competed in a cross country race.

Due to her natural levels, she has been fighting the testosterone regulations since they were first instituted in 2018.