The World Athletics Council, the international body governing track and field, will not allow male athletes who identify as female to compete against women per a decision by the organization.
Not all transgender athletes will be prevented from competing as their chosen gender, but no biological male athlete identifying as a female who has been through puberty will be allowed to compete as a woman.
Prior to making the decision the World Athletics Council consulted with the International Olympic Committee, the Global Athletics Coaches Academy and Athletes’ Commission, member federations, and transgender and human rights groups. There was little support within the sport for the option of requiring transgender athletes to keep their testosterone level below 2.5nmol/L.
With no transgender athletes currently competing internationally in the sports and “consequently no athletics-specific evidence of the impact these athletes would have on the fairness of female competition in athletics,” World Athletics focused on upholding the integrity of women’s sports.
The regulations now state,
“World Athletics wants to give equal opportunities to all athletes to participate in and excel at the sport, and to provide them with fair and meaningful competition conditions, so that they are motivated to make the huge commitment and sacrifice required to excel in the sport, and so inspire new generations to join the sport and aspire to the same excellence.
The substantial sex difference in sports performance that emerges from puberty onwards means that the only way to achieve the objectives set out above is to maintain separate classifications (competition categories) for male and female athletes.”
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe further stated,
“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.”
The decision was praised by various women’s athletes. British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies posted a series of tweets lauding the regulation. In one she said, “Thank you Seb Coe and World Athletics for standing up for female athletes across the world who are worthy of fair sport.”
In another, she responded, “It amazes me how we ever found ourselves here, again, after the GDR years. The IOC learnt nothing! Hopefully we have our sport back. Sport is for all but only where you qualify in the fair category for your biological reality. We’ll keep fighting till all girls sport is protected.”
She also criticized the regulation held by many sports governing bodies that only require biologically male transgender athletes to keep their testosterone level below 2.5 nmol/L. “Women are not a testosterone level,” she stated. “This was always a bogus argument & should never have been considered. A waste of time & money. Male biology advantage cannot be fully mitigated against. And females of all ages in all sports are deserving of fair, safe sport as much as males get. No one’s banned from sport just a category they don’t qualify for.”
Davies is motivated to fight for fairness for women’s sports due to being denied the gold medal in the 400m individual medley at the 1980 Olympics by East German Petra Schneider, who used banned substances to aid her performance.
Riley Gaines, a former collegiate champion swimmer and outspoken critic of biological males in women’s sports, praised the ruling, stating,
“This is huge. This is monumental, really. It is always hard to be the first ones to take a bold step that goes against the woke fad. So World Athletics doing this is a huge first step in the right direction.”
And tennis champion Martina Navratilova, despite being a member of the LGBT community, called the new rule a “step in the right direction” in an op-ed for the Times in Great Britain and urged other organizations governing sports to do the same, while also suggesting that a separate open category would be the best place for transgenders to compete.
“Once somebody has gone through male puberty, there is no way to erase that physical advantage,” she wrote. “You cannot simply turn back the clock, for instance, by trying to erase someone’s testosterone levels.”
This is a decision based on scientific fact and biology instead of the desires of transgender athletes. World Athletics isn’t the first international sports body to stop males from competing against females. FINA, the international organization for swimming, and World Rugby have both banned biological males. Such decisions are always met with allegations of discrimination or that they are without evidence.
Transgender advocates are trying to get you to ignore the evidence. Take, for example, King’s College London’s decision to reject an application by researcher Dr. John Armstrong to survey elite athletes and volunteers on whether males who identify as female should be allowed to compete against females.
In its rejection letter, King’s College said, “The language is not sensitive and the misgendering of athletes is not appropriate… there is obvious bias in the language and there is very little scientific reasoning underpinning the hypothesis.”
The university was referring in part to Armstrong’s statement, “The principle aim of the project is to find the views of athletes and volunteers on the question of when males should be allowed to compete in the female category in athletics.”
Armstrong responded by noting,
“They appear to be trying to prevent me from using the concept of sex at all. I am not misgendering any individuals, I am just accurately using the terms male and female. I’m being blocked from conducting research and it’s impacting upon my academic freedom. No serious work has been done by the various federations to try to find out the opinions of people in athletics, both at the grassroots and elite athletes. By refusing to allow people to conduct research that doesn’t meet certain activist viewpoints, that undermines the credibility of research in general.”
Or contemplate NPR’s tweet sharing an article about the World Athletics’ regulation, which said, “The international governing body for track and field will ban trans women athletes from elite women’s competitions, citing a priority for fairness over inclusion, despite limited scientific research involving elite trans athletes.”
They issued a follow up correcting the claim, saying, “Correction: An earlier tweet incorrectly stated there is limited scientific evidence of physical advantage. Existing research shows that higher levels of testosterone do impact athletic performance. But there’s limited research involving elite trans athletes in competition.” The article NPR posted, however, was not corrected.
The evidence is clear, though. Biological males do have an advantage over biological females, even if they reduce their testosterone levels. In just one example, Will “Lia” Thomas was ranked No. 462 in men’s college swimming before identifying as a female and entering NCAA Division 1 women’s competition, where he became the top ranked swimmer and broke records.
James chapter 2 teaches Christians not to show partiality. James was addressing the behavior of some who were showing honor to the rich and mistreating the poor.
In the situation of women’s sports some are advocating that transgender competitors should be allowed to compete with whoever they choose, rather than against who they have no unfair advantage against. The bottom line is that some sports organizations are elevating biological males above female athletes.
Fairness says that these transgender athletes with an unfair advantage should not compete against women, and there is no honor or victory in prevailing under those circumstances.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.