Coe warns transgender athletes pose risk to integrity of women’s sport | Sport

Sebastian Coe has claimed that the “integrity and future of women’s sport” is at stake after the American swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship last week. The World Athletics president also called on the International Olympic Committee to introduce regulations that can be applied across every sport and insisted that “gender cannot trump biology”.

Thomas, who swam for the University of Pennsylvania men’s team for three seasons before starting hormone replacement therapy in 2019, made history by winning the 500-yard freestyle in Atlanta but has faced protests since starting to compete as a woman. Asked how important the challenge of transgender women is in athletics, Lord Coe said: “I think that the integrity of women’s sport – if we don’t get this right – and actually the future of women’s sport, is very fragile.”

Under Coe’s watch, World Athletics has introduced strict rules for transgender athletes that mean they must keep their testosterone levels under a certain limit for at least 12 months before being allowed to compete internationally. Athletes with DSD (difference of sexual development) such as South Africa’s Caster Semenya have also been forced to restrict their testosterone levels for six months to be permitted to compete internationally over certain distances.

Sebastian Coe has been forthright in his views on transgender athletes in his role of president of World Athletics. Photograph: Nikola Krstic/Shutterstock

“There is no question to me that testosterone is the key determinant in performance,” Coe told the Daily Telegraph. “If you look at the nature of 12– or 13-year-old girls, I remember my daughters would regularly outrun male counterparts in their class, but as soon as puberty kicks in that gap opens and it remains. He added: “Gender cannot trump biology. As a federation president, I do not have that luxury. It is a luxury that other organisations not at the practical end of having to deal with these issues have. But as far as I am concerned, the scientific evidence, the peer-reviewed work we have done, those regulations are the right approach.”

Asked how he might feel when athletics encounters its first transgender woman winning races like Thomas, he added: “You can’t be oblivious to public sentiment, of course not. But science is important. If I wasn’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 landscape. It is not something you can keep farming off onto the member federations.”