Friday March 24, 2023
Yesterday the international federation for track and field, World Athletics, issued new rules that establish guardrails around the women’s sport categories. The new rules state that eligibility for the women’s category will be just for females. Trans-identifying males, or transwomen, will not be allowed in any of their sanctionedfemale events if they’ve experienced male puberty. This decision parallels the rules swimming (FINA) adopted last year.
Champion Women and the WSPWG see these new rules as pro-women, affirming the sports category that celebrates our unique biology, and the fact that males and females are built from fundamentally different templates. Athletics play a vital role in society, especially for women. Every time a woman wins, the victory directly confronts previously entrenched gender stereotypes. Women’s sports performances, by athletes such as Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jessica Mendoza, Abby Wambach, Jennie Finch, Lisa Leslie, Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh, Allyson Felix and Mia Hamm continue to inspire and encourage girls and women to break down the cultural barriers that limit their potential and open doors to their future on and off the playing field. Women athletes are heroes and mentors, leaders and role models. Each female athlete is a living affirmation of why it is important to ensure equal opportunity in sports.
The overwhelming science of 19 studies demonstrates that males cannot take drugs to become females. Moreover, the implication is that women are weakened males. Women are not men-minus-testosterone or men-plus-wombs. Women’s bodies are from a different mold, different in fundamental ways that affect sports performance – which is why virtually every sporting environment offers two distinct categories: one for women and one for men.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is still using testosterone levels as a basis for separating female and male elite athletes and is flawed for this reason. Male physiology cannot be reformatted by estrogen therapy in trans-identified male athletes because testosterone drives permanent effects that impact sport performance such as lung size, body shape, and heart capacity, among others. We are part of the effort to change these rules.
Trans-identified males are not prohibited from competition; they are still eligible and welcome in
Women who identify as nonbinary or transmen can still participate in the women’s categories unless and until they begin taking testosterone. These include
Aathletes such as Quinn on the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team; Iszac Henig, a Yale swimmer who competed against Lia Thomas,; Layshia Clarendon, a WNBA star; Balian Buschbaum; and Kye Allums, a basketball player at Georgetown University; Jaiyah Saelua; Ness Murby; and Keelin Godsey.
Moreover, World Athletics’ new rules now require athletes born with 5-ARD, a Difference in Sexual Development or DSD, to dramatically lower their testosterone for as much as two years prior to competition with females in all track and field events. Those with this DSD may present with female genitalia at birth and they may identify as women, but they have XY chromosomes, (the male type); have male levels of testosterone (not the 10-20x lower levels of females); are able to process testosterone as men do; and have internal testes, not ovaries. These four factors equate to a male body, regardless of identity. (Articles that describe those with DSDs as “women who are born with naturally high levels of testosterone” are misleading.)
For women to enjoy equitable opportunities in sport, they need their own teams, their own places to compete and showcase their unique talents. Without the two sex categories (male and female) we would never have been able to celebrate the greatest female athletes of all time, including but by no means limited to Martina Navratilova, Michelle Akers, Lindsey Vonn, Wilma Rudolph, Mary Lou Retton, Nancy Lopez, Joan Benoit, Mary Decker, Ann Meyers, Micki King, Serena Williams, Donna de Varona, Sanya Richards-Ross, Nancy Hogshead… and so many more. All would have been defeated by and overshadowed by countless male athletes and lost to history – not because women are inferior to men, but because we’re different.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe recognized that women’s sports and transgender rights presented a conflict of rights, a conflict that is irreconcilable with inclusion into the women’s category:
“Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups, but we continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations. 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 is establishing a 12-month Working Group to consider transgender inclusion. The Working Group will be comprised of 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. It will “consult specifically with transgender athletes to seek their views on competing in athletics; to review and/or commission additional research where there is currently limited research and to put forward recommendations to Council.” We praise this effort. We also urge the World Athletics’ Working Group to consult with women’s sports advocates like Champion Women, the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, the International Consortium on Female Sports, the Independent Council on Women’s Sports, Women’s Declaration International, and Sex Matters, among others.
ACTION STEP: Make sure you’ve signed our petition that supports fairness for girls and women in competitive sports: SIGN THE PETITION HERE
Citations: See, e.g., Heather AK. “Transwoman Elite Athletes: Their Extra Percentage Relative to Female Physiology.” Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jul 26;19(15):9103. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19159103. PMID: 35897465; PMCID: PMC9331831. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9331831/
Hilton, E.N., Lundberg, T.R. “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage.” Sports Med 51, 199–214 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-020-01389-3, available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-020-01389-3
Harper J, O’Donnell E, Sorouri Khorashad B, et al., “How does hormone transition in transgender women change body composition, muscle strength and hemoglobin? Systematic review with a focus on the implications for sport participation,” British Journal of Sports Medicine 2021;55:865-872, available at: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/55/15/865