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During a star-spangled athletics career, Sebastian Coe rarely snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The most famous exception came at the Olympic 800m final in Moscow where he made so many tactical missteps that his father and coach, Peter, used a coarse four-letter word to describe his run. However this weekend Lord Coe became reacquainted with similar levels of opprobrium after World Athletics’ proposed solution to sport’s most divisive issue became public.
For months, as the World Athletics president Coe has strongly hinted that trans women and athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD), who are 46 XY with male testes but were reported female at birth, should only compete in female sport if the science shows it is fair. “Biology trumps identity,” he said in the summer. “If we ever get pushed into a corner to that point where we’re making a judgment about fairness or inclusion, I will always fall down on the side of fairness.” Just in case there was any doubt, Coe also promised to “be guided by the science”, before adding: “Fairness is non-negotiable.”
Yet a curious feat of alchemy takes place when you read World Athletics’ proposed new DSD and transgender regulations…
A statistical survey carried out by maths and data experts from Mornington Chasers Running Club has shown that an overwhelming majority of grassroots athletics and running clubs in the UK are opposed to male athletes who identify as transgender competing in women’s athletics.
The survey was carried out following the news that World Athletics had circulated a consultation document that included the option of allowing transgender athletes to compete in elite female track and field events if they recorded a low testosterone level.
Alice Sullivan of University College London and John Armstrong of King’s College London contacted more than 400 athletics and running clubs to ask them about the global governing body’s proposal to allow some males, including males who identify as transgender, to compete in women’s athletics on condition that they reduce their testosterone levels below 2.5nmol/L for two years.
They found that 87% of those who replied were opposed to the proposal.
The survey only received 65 replies from 416 emails and acknowledge any data-collection exercise has some limitations, but they add: “The sample…
World Athletics has proposed continuing to allow transgender women to compete in the female category of international events, taking a different approach from other sports that have banned transgender athletes from elite female competition.
A document setting out the policy of track and field's global body has been submitted to national member federations in a consultation process before a vote in March.
In a statement, World Athletics said its "preferred option" is to tighten the rules surrounding eligibility but that it wants to use limits on testosterone as the key determining factor.
Other sports such as swimming have effectively banned transgender women from taking part in top-level events because of concerns that they have an unfair advantage.
Swimming's world body FINA applies the rule to athletes who have passed through any stage of the process of male puberty.
World Athletics said in a statement: "In terms of our female eligibility regulations, we will follow the science and the decade and more of the research we have in this area in order to protect the female category, maintain fairness in our competitions and remain as inclusive as possible.
"In reviewing a number of new and existing studies and observations from the…