September 26, 2022
The president of World Athletics suggested that biologically male transgender athletes could be prohibited from competing against females.

The president of World Athletics has suggested that biologically male transgender athletes could be prohibited from competing in females international competitions, declaring that “biology trumps gender”.

Lord Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, the governing body for international track and field competitions, has hinted that the organisation may adopt new eligibility requirements that could see trans athletes banned from facing off against women as he hailed the move by Fina to ban transgender people who experienced male puberty from female swimming matches.

“We see an international federation asserting its primacy in setting rules, regulations and policies that are in the best interest of its sport,” Coe told BBC Sport.

“This is as it should be. We have always believed that biology trumps gender and we will continue to review our regulations in line with this. We will follow the science.

“We continue to study, research and contribute to the growing body of evidence that testosterone is a key determinant in performance, and have scheduled a discussion on our regulations with our council at the end of the year.”

Lord Coe, a one-time Conservative Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons, has already introduced curbs on trans athletes as President of World Athletics, requiring that testosterone levels must be below five nanomoles per litre (5nmol/L) to enter into a women’s competition.

In 2021, the International Olympic Committee said that each sport should make its own determinations on whether transgender athletes would have a disproportionate advantage in light of the individual aspects of the sport, sparking a recent wave of restrictions on trans athletes.

On Monday, the International Rugby League (IRL) announced that it will be prohibiting biological males to face off against women “until further research is completed”.

The IRL, which cited the Olympic Committee’s judgement, said that as a contact sports league, it has a “responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate – a long-standing principle of rugby league and at its heart from the day it was established – against perceived risk to other participants, and to ensure all are given a fair hearing.”

Monday’s decision means that trans athletes will be barred from the upcoming Women’s Rugby League World Cup in October and November. The move from the International Rugby League follows a similar ban from World Rugby, which stated in 2020 that the risk of injury posed to female athletes was too great given the natural strength advantages of biological males even after being placed on hormone drugs to suppress testosterone production.

Over the weekend, the International Swimming Federation (FINA), the governing body of international swimming competitions, ruled that any athlete who had gone through the male puberty cycle should be barred from female races, saying that such athletes maintain a “relative performance advantage over biological females”, even after medication to reduce testosterone.

Lord Coe, who was in Budapest as a guest of Fina on Monday, said: “We’ve always tried to find a navigable way through. We haven’t wanted to stigmatise… But when push comes to shove, if it’s a judgement between inclusion and fairness, we will always fall down on the side of fairness – that for me is non-negotiable.

While the regulations are currently under review, he added that “the integrity of women’s sport is really, really important here, and we can’t have a generation of young girls thinking there is not a future for them in the sport.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka