Transgender women were banned from international track and field competitions on Thursday following a decision by the sport’s governing body.
World Athletics, formerly known as the IAAF, said the ban would start on March 31 and replace old rules that allowed trans athletes to compete.
Athletics authorities followed in the footsteps of swimming’s international governing body, FINA, which banned trans athletes last year.
No trans athlete currently competes at the highest level of track. The highest-profile trans swimmer, Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania, did not compete at the highest level at the world level, but she did win an NCAA championship.
World Athletics recently cited scientist investigation which found that trans women maintained an athletic advantage after transitioning.
“We continue to believe that we must uphold equity for female athletes above all other considerations,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said. “We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and the male advantage that will inevitably develop in the years to come.”
Republican-led states in the US have passed similar bans on high school sports in recent years. Critics of those bans have argued that research on the subject remains unclear.
“A person’s genetic makeup and internal and external reproductive anatomy are not useful indicators of athletic performance,” said Dr. Joshua Safer, executive director of the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery.
“There is no inherent reason why the physiological characteristics (of a trans woman) related to athletic performance should be treated differently than the physiological characteristics of a non-transgender woman.”
Earlier this year, World Athletics floated the idea of a testosterone limit for transgender athletes, which would have been set at 2.5 nanomoles per liter of blood. However, “there was little support within the sport” for testosterone rules in lieu of an outright ban, according to a World Athletics Statement.
The organization instituted that 2.5 nmol/L cap for athletes with differences in sexual development, such as South African runner Caster Semenya, who won two gold medals in the 800 meters before being expelled from the event. Reigning 200m Olympic champion Christine Mboma of Namibia will also be affected by the new rules.