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World Athletics to tighten transgender rules; lift doping ban on Russia

World Athletics has decided to tighten its rules around the participation of trans women in female events and is also set to withdraw the doping ban on Russia.

World Athletics to tighten transgender rules; lift doping ban on Russia

Caster Semenya (Source: Getty Images)


Anjishnu Roy

Published: 23 March 2023 2:39 PM GMT

World Athletics has made the decision to make its rules around the participation of transgender women in female competition even stricter. The decision taken by the administrators of the leading governing body in athletics is in contrast to some other sports like swimming which has almost put a soft ban on transgender athletes from taking any part in female competition.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has suggested that the organisation maintains that its ‘preferred option’ is to make the rules surrounding the eligibility of trans women even tighter and that the limits on testosterone is expected to be the key determining factor in that regard.

It further added that it wanted to amend the rules and regulations surrounding both transgender athletes as well as those who are classified as DSD or ‘differences of sexual development’.

The most high profile case of a DSD athlete is that of South Africa’s Caster Semenya, who won two Olympic gold medals in the 800m category.

Under the World Athletics proposals, in order to compete in the female category, transgender and DSD athletes would have to reduce their amount of blood testosterone from the current maximum of five nanomoles per litre to below 2.5, and remain below this level for two years rather than just one, as is the case now.

This proposal will be put to vote before the World Athletics Council that is taking place in Monaco.

Another agenda for the Council concerns Russian athletes and their probable reintegration back to the world of athletics ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic games.

Russian Athletics Federation has been barred and suspended by World Athletics since 2015 after World Anti Doping Agency identified rampant doping drug usage and doping culture among its various athletes.

As a result, Russia is unable to host World Athletics events or even send teams or individuals to international championships.

For the athletics superpower to return it has to meet a series of strict conditions including establishing a culture of zero tolerance and an effective anti-doping structure.

Even if World Athletics were to lift the sanctions imposed on Russian track and field athletes, it would have little immediate effect given that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned from competition “for the foreseeable future” after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

Given that we are only 18 months away from the Olympics 2024 being hosted in Paris, it will be interesting to see the position that one of the leading organisations in the world of sport takes on this issue of Russian participation and World Athletics is expected to come under intense scrutiny.

After having recommended the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian sportspeople 13 months ago, the International Olympic Committee in January said it was seeking a “pathway” for Russians to take part in the Games in the French capital.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has previously been unequivocal in his declarations on refusing Russian participation following the fallout from the Ukraine invasion and has maintained that his organisation will not budge.

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