World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has said the “integrity and future of women’s sport” are at stake after American swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship.
The World Athletics president also called on the International Olympic Committee to introduce regulations that can be applied across all sports, insisting that “gender cannot trump biology.”
Under Coe’s watch, World Athletics has introduced strict rules for transgender athletes that mean they must keep their testosterone levels below a certain threshold for at least 12 months before they can compete internationally.
Athletes with DSD (difference in sex development) like South Africa’s Caster Semenya have also been forced to restrict their testosterone levels for six months in order to compete internationally over certain distances.
“There is no question to me that testosterone is the key determinant of performance,” Coe told the Daily Telegraph. “If you look at the nature of 12- or 13-year-old girls, I remember that my daughters used to outperform their male counterparts in their class, but as soon as puberty kicks in, that gap opens and stays”.
Gender cannot trump biology
He added: “Gender cannot trump biology. As president of a federation, I don’t have that luxury. It is a luxury that other organizations have that are not at the practical end of having to deal with these issues. But as far as I’m concerned, the scientific evidence, the peer-reviewed work that we’ve done, those regulations are the right approach.”
Asked how he would feel when athletics met its first transgender woman winning races like Thomas, he added: “You can’t ignore public sentiment, of course not. But science is important. If you weren’t satisfied with the science that we have and the experts that have been working on this for a long time, this would be a very different picture. It is not something that you can continue to cultivate in the member associations.”