Yesterday (Saturday Jan 21), The Telegraph reported in an "exclusive" that in preparation for World Athletics' annual meeting in March, WA HQ had told member federations that its "preferred option" was for rule changes that would continue to allow male athletes who claim a transgender identity to compete in women's track & field events, but which would require them to have lower T levels for a longer period of time before they could gain eligibility to compete in the female category.
Today (Sunday, Jan 22), Sean Ingle of the Guardian reported that official WA documents shown to him say that WA's proposed rule changes requiring lower T levels for longer lengths of time would also apply to XY DSD athletes like Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba.
Moreover, the new stricter rules would apply to XY DSD athletes in all events - not just middle distance running as is currently the case.
Under WA HQ's “preferred option," the maximum permitted plasma testosterone for all XY athletes with testes seeking to compete in the female category would be halved from 5 mol/L to 2.5 nmol/L – and XY athletes with testes would have to stay below the permitted threshold for two years rather than 12 months as is currently the case for XY trans athletes, and 6 months for XY DSD athletes.
These levels are still considerably higher than the T levels found in women generally and in elite female track & field athletes specifically. WA says the normal range of T in females is 0.2-1.68 nmol/L; and a T level of 1.7 nmol/L in a female athlete is a flag for suspected doping.
When WA looked at the T levels of more than 800 female athletes in elite international track & field competition, it found that the vast majority had T levels under 1 nmol/L. The median level was < 0.7 - more than 3 times under the level that male athletes in women's competition will be allowed to have.
As WA has found in its research, the only female people who would have T levels of 2.5 would be pregnant women, a minority of women with the chronic health condition polycystic ovary syndrome, women with other serious and rare health issues such as untreated congenital adrenal hyperplasia, cancerous tumors that are life-threatening, and a very unusual kind of transient ovarian tumor that occurs every once in a blue moon to a healthy woman during pregnancy.
The WA document shown to Sean Ingle reportedly says, “An analysis of DSD cases observed in elite athletes shows that most athletes are 46 XY persons who have testes that produce testosterone concentrations within the male range and who are not insensitive to the effects of androgens. As far as athletic performance is concerned, there is no significant difference between a 46 XY DSD individual" and other males without DSDs, including those who identify as transgender prior to taking medications to lower their T. "Therefore, in this respect there is a need for consistency between the transgender and DSD regulations.”
Ingle says that in the consultation document, "World Athletics accepts" that post-pubescent males who say they identify as women “retain an advantage in muscle mass, volume and strength" over females after 12 months of testosterone reduction - and WA also accepts that “the limited experimental data” suggests that those advantages continue after T has been suppressed for considerably longer than 12 months.
The WA document reportedly notes that going through puberty of adolescence "results in sex differences in height, weight, wingspan (throws), pelvic and lower limbs architecture. These anatomical differences provide [males with] an athletic advantage after puberty for certain athletic events and will not respond to suppression of blood testosterone levels" later on.
Ingle's article does not say whether the WA document also acknowledges that going through puberty causes males to have lungs and hearts that are 10-12% and 25-38% larger and more powerful respectively as well - and that lowering T levels later on life has no impact at all on the size and power of these male organs, either.
Nevertheless, Ingles says that "World Athletics maintains that its preferred option would work" because it would “allow significant (although not full reduction in anaerobic, aerobic and body composition) changes, while still providing a path for eligibility of trans women and 46 XY individuals to compete in the female category."
The obvious questions that come to my mind is: who decided that "providing a path" for males of any kind to compete in female athletics is good thing? Why is WA HQ pretending that part of its remit is "providing a path" for males who don't want to or feel they shouldn't have to compete against their own sex to compete against females?
My guess is that the supposedly "preferred option" put forward by WA HQ in these consultation documents isn't really that at all. WA HQ seems to want to impose rules similar to FINA's that effectively ban males who've undergone any aspect of male puberty of adolescence from the female category, but WA HQ also seems not to want to say so outright right off the bat for fear of inciting the ire and accusations of the crowd that champions male incursion into female sports under the banner of "diversity and inclusion." So WA appears to have put these proposals out there - and leaked details to the Telegraph and Guardian" - in order to whip up public furor, incite outrage and opposition from female athletes, and stir the pot amongst the member federations who will be sending representatives to the March meeting.
As Ingles says at the end of his article, a World Athletics spokesperson said that putting forward this "preferred option" was “the best way to gather constructive feedback, but this does not mean this is the option that will be presented to council or indeed adopted” and promised they would consult more widely in the coming weeks.