Female runners with naturally high testosterone levels will have to race against men or switch events unless they take medication under new IAAF rules which begin in November.
The rules will apply to women who race in track events from 400m up to the mile and the IAAF believes the new measures will stop women such as Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya with high testosterone levels gaining a competitive edge.
The rules for athletes who have ‘differences of sexual development’ apply to the 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, 1500m, one mile races and combined events over the same distances.
Athletes who want to compete must take medication for six months before they can compete – and then maintain a lower testosterone level. If they do not wish to take the medication they can compete in international competitions in disciplines other than track events from 400m to the mile. Or they can compete in men’s or mixed gender competitions or domestic [non-international] events.
Those who want to compete are not required to undergo surgery.
An IAAF statement says the rules are “in no way intended as any kind of judgement on or questioning of the sex or the gender identity of any athlete”.
The global governing body points to their latest research which showed there is a performance advantage for females with higher testosterone over the track distances.
“We want athletes to be incentivised to make the huge commitment and sacrifice required to excel in the sport, and to inspire new generations to join the sport and aspire to the same excellence,” said IAAF president Sebastian Coe.
“As the international federation for our sport we have a responsibility to ensure a level playing field for athletes. Like many other sports we choose to have two classifications for our competition – men’s events and women’s events. This means we need to be clear about the competition criteria for these two categories.
“Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes. The revised rules are not about cheating – no athlete with a DSD [difference of sexual development] has cheated – they are about levelling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition in the sport of athletics where success is determined by talent, dedication and hard work rather than other contributing factors.”