Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics President has said the state of women’s sports is “very fragile” and sports federations need to get it right when writing rules for female transgender athletes.
Coe’s comments come in the wake of University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas becoming the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle in Atlanta last week.
“The integrity of women’s sport — if we don’t get this right — and, actually, the future of women’s sport, is very fragile,” Sebastian Coe was quoted as saying.
The controversy surrounding Thomas stems from the fact that she competed on the men’s team for three years before transitioning and moving to the women’s team, setting multiple program records on her way.
USA Swimming unveiled a new policy last month that allows transgender athletes to swim in elite events by setting out criteria that aim to mitigate any perceived unfair advantages.
The rules include testing to ensure testosterone is below a certain level (five nano-moles per liter) continuously for at least 36 months – in transgender athletes who wish to compete against cisgender female swimmers.
World Athletics requires transgender athletes to have low testosterone levels for at least 12 months before competition, a time period Coe believes to be too short.
“We are asking for a greater length of (time) before competition because the residual impact of transitioning like that is more profound,”.
Transgender issues and rights have long been a controversial and politically divisive issue around the globe from sports to serving in the military, and even what bathrooms people are allowed to use.
Coe said he understands the sensitive nature of the issue and said he wants to focus on the science.
“It’s really difficult to keep the emotion out of this and subjectivity, so we do have to really stick as closely as we can to the science — and that’s what we’ve always tried to do when it’s been uncomfortable,” he said.