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IAAF responds to open letter from the Women's Sports Foundation and Athlete Ally

(Photo: Getty Images)

MONACO, July 17, 2018 - The IAAF has today responded to an open letter from the Women’s Sports Foundation and Athlete Ally, which requested that the IAAF rescind the new eligibility regulations for the female classification, due to come into effect on November 1, 2018.

IAAF Response to Open Letter

The IAAF has not and will never try to prevent women from participating in athletics.

In fact, the IAAF has been one of the foremost advocates for women’s sport for almost a century. It has long championed equal access to competition and equal prize money at a time when many other sports still discriminate in this area.

Contrary to claims made in an open letter written by the US-based Women’s Sports Foundation, the IAAF’s new female classification rule does not seek to prevent any woman from competing in athletics.

Under the Regulations, women with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD/intersex) will be eligible to compete in any event at domestic level. They will be eligible to compete in all but distances from 400m up to 1 mile on the international championship programme. They will also be eligible to compete in those distances if they take measures to ensure their testosterone levels are under 5nmol/L (which puts them on an even playing field with the rest of the female population). They will be eligible to compete in male and intersex competition. The choice is theirs.

The IAAF seeks only to maintain a fair and meaningful category for women to compete in athletics. It makes no judgment about gender or sexual identity. It has only acted upon the scientific evidence established by esteemed scientists around the world, which shows that i) there is correlation between testosterone and performance in at least certain specific athletic events, ii) women who produce testosterone in the normal male range, and are androgen-sensitive, thereby enjoy a substantial physical advantage over women who produce testosterone in the normal female range.

The women’s category of sport is by nature a restricted category. Without limits, it would cease to exist and it is the responsibility of the sport’s governing body to establish those limits.

In the same way, under 20 competition is restricted to those athletes who are under 20, because those who are over 20 have a natural biological advantage over younger athletes who are still developing into adults.

Sports that have weight divisions to establish fair competition also impose limits that require some athletes, male and female, to change their body composition in order to abide by the rules of that event.

This rule has been established under the same principles that have governed fair competition in sport throughout its history.

The IAAF has been a leading supporter of women in sport for most of its long history and will continue to be.

The open letter from the Women’s Sports Foundation and Athlete Ally is available below:

Dear Members of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council:

We the undersigned members of the sports community are deeply troubled by the recently announced regulations that discriminate against female athletes with naturally elevated testosterone that would require them to undergo medically unnecessary interventions to lower their testosterone levels as a precondition of participation in sport.

No woman should be required to change her body to compete in women’s sport.

These regulations continue the invasive surveillance and judgment of women’s bodies that have long tainted women’s sport. They intensify the unfair scrutiny that female athletes already experience and exacerbate discrimination against women in sport who are perceived as not prescribing to normative ideas about femininity, which can include their appearance, their gender expression, and their sexuality.

As Dutee Chand said regarding the last regulation: “I do not wish to see anyone else go through the process that I had to go through or be scrutinized the way that I was. My heart goes out to all the women who are targeted by the new regulation.”

Such discrimination undermines the spirit of sport, and violates the 4thfundamental principle of the Olympic Charter, to which the IAAF adheres:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

As leaders in our athletic community, we believe that sport changes the world when it welcomes and empowers all people. What is at stake here is far more than the right to participate in a sport. Women’s bodies, their wellbeing, their ability to earn a livelihood, their very identity, their privacy and sense of safety and belonging in the world, are at imminent risk.

We demand you rescind these discriminatory regulations, and stand with female athletes globally in pursuit of an equitable and inclusive athletic experience.


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