World Athletics condemned for ‘bowing to political pressure’ over trans women ban

A group of women taking part in a World Athletics race.

The World Athletics decision to ban trans women from female competitions sends a clear message to trans youth that they “don’t belong”, activists say.

The governing body announced on Thursday (23 March) that trans women who have been through “male puberty” will be excluded from female world ranking competitions from 31 March – which also happens to be Transgender Day of Visibility.

In its statement, World Athletics acknowledged that there are currently no trans athletes competing internationally, meaning there is no “athletics-specific evidence of the impact these athletes would have on the fairness of female competition”.

Chris Mosier, founder of transathlete.com and a two-time national champion and Team USA mutlisport athlete, said the decision would prevent trans youth from enjoying sport.

“World Athletics’ decision to ban all transgender women and place harsh restrictions on athletes with intersex traits does not protect the integrity of women’s sports and only further policing of women’s bodies,” Mosier said in a statement.

Chris Mosier attends "Out in Sports" panel at Tribeca Celebrates Pride Day at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
Chris Mosier attends “Out in Sports” panel at Tribeca Celebrates Pride Day at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty)

“Each time an international federation makes a policy that bans transgender athletes, we see a trickle down effect to other policies.

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“The real impact will be felt by young athletes around the world who are now unable to pursue their athletic dreams, and who are bombarded with messages from sport organisations and lawmakers telling them that they do not belong and don’t deserve the same opportunity as their peers to experience the joy, connections, and camaraderie that comes with playing sports.”

World Athletics guidelines ignore ‘actual, proven threats’ to women’s sport

Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director at LGBTQ+ sporting organisation Athlete Ally, said: “We are beyond devastated to see World Athletics succumbing to political pressure instead of core principles of inclusion, fairness and non-discrimination for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex traits.

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“The guidelines announced today go against inclusive guidelines from the International Olympic Committee ass well as extensive research showing that transgender women do not have an inherent advantage in sport.”

Athletes compete in the Women's Heptathlon 800m on day four of the World Athletics Championships.
Athletes compete in the Women’s Heptathlon 800m on day four of the World Athletics Championships. (Hannah Peters/Getty)

Taylor said the new guidelines will do nothing to address the “actual, proven threats to women’s sport” such as unequal pay, sexual abuse, lack of some in leadership and unequal resources for female athletes.

“What these guidelines mean on a human level is that a young transgender girl who dreams of one day seeing herself on an Olympic stage will now have those dreams cruelly dashed.

“For women with intersex traits, they will continue to be subjected to horrific sex testing practices and medically unnecessary surgery, gender-based violence and discrimination that has been documented by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We will continue to push for World Athletics to look at the science, to centre inclusion, and to speak directly with athletes affected by these criteria in order to develop a policy that allows all athletes access to the sport they love.”

Liz Ward, director of programmes at Stonewall, said decisions like that made by World Athletics should be based on “robust evidence”.

“It is so disappointing to see World Athletics announce a unilateral ban on trans women in track and field events,” Ward said.

Sebastian Coe pictured at a World Athletics event.
World Athletics president Seb Coe has announced a ban on trans athletes. (Getty)

“Their own statement recognises that there are no trans women competing at an international level and that they have no specific evidence to justify the ban.

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“It is vital that decisions about trans participation are based on robust evidence, specific to the sport played and the athletes competing at that level of the sport.

“We stand with trans people who now have the door closed on their chance to compete in athletic sports at an international level.”

Trans youth charity Mermaids said the policy will only exacerbate the exclusion of trans people from sport.

“As a youth organisation, we see what these top-down policies mean for the daily lives of trans young people. They are excluded from taking part in their local sports club and even PE, missing out on the overwhelmingly positive physical, emotional and social benefits all young people should enjoy from physical exercise.”

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