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World Athletics president Sebastian Coe chaired the 380th World Athletics Council press conference on Thursday, March 23. During the conference, he addressed two important matters in the sport of athletics, status of transgender athletes in women’s sports and the Russia and Belarus doping ban.

Transgender and differences of sexual development

Coe started with announcing a ban on transgender athletes competing in the women’s category, who had gone through male puberty. He addressed the overarching job of protecting the women’s category in sport.

The Council reduced the allowable testosterone level for athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD) from 5nmol/litre to 2.5, a ruling that extends to all events and not just the previously restricted 400 metres to mile distances.

“The Council has agreed to exclude male to female transgender athletes who have been through male puberty from female world ranking competitions from March the 31st this year.

“The majority of those consulted stated that transgender athletes should not be competing in women’s competition. They believe there is insufficient evidence that trans women do not retain advantages over biological women.”

“The council has agreed to exclude male-to-female transgender athletes who have been through male puberty from female World Rankings competition from 31 March 2023.

“World Athletics conducted a consultation period with various stakeholders in the first two months of this year, including Member Federations, the Global Athletics Coaches Academy and Athletes’ Commission, the IOC as well as representative transgender and human rights groups.”

Caster Semenya, who has competed and won at various event including the 800m is an example of a DSD athlete who allegedly produces much more testosterone than biological women. Biological women would have to take performance-enhancing drugs to acheive the same levels of testosterone. In other words, cheat. The women’s 800m final during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games had three DSD women take the first three medals, where the first biological female Melissa Bishop-Nriagu finished fourth.

Semenya holds seven South African national records from 300m to 1500m and in the 4 x 400m. She won gold a the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She is a three-time World Atheltics Championships gold medallist, all in the 800m distance event. Semenya has won 21 Diamond League race, all of which pay prize money. During the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games she earned gold in both the 800m and 1500m.

“In terms of DSD regulations, World Athletics has more than ten years of research and evidence of the physical advantages that these athletes bring to the female category,” said Coe.

The issue regarding transgender athletes choosing to compete in the women’s category is different than DSD athletes choosing to compete as women. Semenya was allegedly examined without her consent to determine what if any male traits she carriers and internal testes, high production of testosterone and no womb or ability to carry a child was determined. She was ordered to take testosterone-limiting medication for one year and during that year, her performances slowed dramatically. The Transgender issue is different and the discussion is far from over.

“However the Council agreed to set up a Working Group for 12 months to further consider the issue of transgender inclusion.

“This Working Group will include 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.

“Its remit will be to 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.”

The status or Russia and Belarus

Russia’s systematic doping ban that was first handed down in 2015 and subsequently renewed will end, however, both countries will continue on the sideline as long as there is the Russian incursion into Ukraine. Or as Coe said, “for the foreseeable future.”

“Athletes and officials for Russia and Belarus are still excluded for the foreseeable future due to the invasion of Ukraine,” said Coe.

Asked if that ban would only be reversed when Russia left Ukraine, Coe responded with, “That was my instinct at the last council meeting in Rome and it remains my instinct.”

Rune Andersen, the head of the Task Force charged with reinstating RusAF, told a press conference after the council meeting, “I advised council today that the required conditions have been met.

Coe added there would be 35 conditions that the two countries need to comply with for a minimum of three years. This is intended to ensure that RusAF’s anti-doping reforms remain in place and continue to operate effectively.

The council also agreed to establish a working group to advise and recommend the conditions that would need to be met for the restrictions on athletes and officials from RusAF participating at World Athletics Series events to be lifted.

Coe added, “As I noted at the time these measures were introduced last year, the unprecedented sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus by countries and industries all over the world appear to be the only peaceful way to disrupt and disable Russia’s current intentions and restore peace.