Athletics

World Athletics chief favours fairness over inclusion: 'Biology trumps gender'

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British great Sebastian Coe (AFP)
British great Sebastian Coe (AFP)
ISSEI KATO / POOL / AFP

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has hinted 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 to 2019.

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."


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