World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has hinted that track and field could follow swimming in bringing in a tougher policy on transgender athletes competing in women’s events.
Swimming’s governing body FINA announced on Sunday it intends to set up an “open category” to allow transgender athletes to compete in a separate class.
According to FINA’s new policy, transgender athletes will not be allowed to compete in female events unless they can “prove they have not experienced any element of male puberty.”
That ruling came in response to American swimmer Lia Thomas becoming the first known transgender athlete to win an elite US collegiate title in March.
Thomas, a freestyle specialist, competed for the University of Pennsylvania men’s team from 2017-19.
Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has also toughened its rules on transgender eligibility by doubling the time period before a rider transitioning from male to female can compete.
“My responsibility is to protect the integrity of women’s sport and we take that very seriously, and if it means that we have to make adjustments to protocols going forward, we will,” said Coe, who was present in Budapest for FINA’s swimming world championships on Sunday.
“I’ve always made it clear: if we ever get pushed into a corner to that point where we’re making a judgement about fairness or inclusion, I will always fall down on the side of fairness.
“We see an international federation asserting its primacy in setting rules, regulations and policies that are in the best interest of its sport.
“This is as it should be. We have always believed, and repeated constantly, that biology trumps gender and we will continue to review our regulations in line with this.”
Under World Athletics rules, transgender women have to show they have low testosterone levels for at least 12 months before competition.
“We continue to study, research and contribute to the growing body of evidence that testosterone is a key determinator in performance,” added Coe.
“And have scheduled a discussion on our DSD (difference of sexual development) and transgender regulations with our council at the end of the year.”
Rugby League bans trans athletes
The sport of rugby league on Tuesday banned transgender players from women’s international matches while it develops a “comprehensive inclusion policy”.
Rugby league authorities said they needed to conduct further consultations and research to finalise a new policy for 2023, citing the “welfare, legal and reputational risk” to the game and players.
Until then, transgender women players “are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches,” said a statement from the 13-a-side game’s governing body, the International Rugby League.
The decision means transgender athletes will be banned from this year’s Women’s Rugby League World Cup in England in November.
Rugby league authorities cited the International Olympic Committee’s decision last year that each sport should determine how athletes might be at a “disproportionate advantage”.
“The IRL reaffirms its belief that rugby league is a game for all and that anyone and everyone can play our sport,” it said.
The governing body said it would work with the eight nations taking part in the Women’s Rugby League World Cup for a “future trans women inclusion policy in 2023”, taking into account the “unique characteristics” of rugby league.