Press Release17 Jul 2018

IAAF response to open letter from the Women’s Sports Foundation and Athlete Ally


IAAF logo (© IAAF)

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.