Sebastian Coe stressed that ‘gender cannot trump biology’
Trans swimmer Lia Thomas has triggered widespread debate. © Rich von Biberstein / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has urged care on deciding transgender participation rules in women’s sports, which he says have a “very fragile” future while “gender cannot trump biology”.
Coe made his comments to The Times amid controversy at the weekend, when University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to claim the highest US national college title by winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle in Atlanta.
“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,” Coe said, with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) handing over the responsibility to individual bodies to determine their own policies for trans athletes in line with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) stance.
“There is no question to me that testosterone is the key determinant in performance,” Coe went on, as USA Swimming updated its rules for elite swimmers in February which will see testosterone tests for trans athletes 36 months before competitions in a bid to reduce any unfair advantages.
At World Athletics, transgender athletes must prove low testosterone levels across a 12-month period to be allowed to take part in their events.
“Look at the nature of 12 or 13-year-old girls,” Coe suggested. “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. Gender cannot trump biology,” he claimed.
“You can’t be oblivious to public sentiment, of course not. But science is important,” Coe stressed. “If I wasn’t satisfied with the science that we have and the experts that we have used and the in-house teams that have been working on this for a long time, if I wasn’t comfortable about that, this would be a very different landscape.”