The IAAF council met in Doha following the 2019 World Championships to approve the eligibility rules for transgender athletes that require the serum testosterone to remain less than five nanomoles per liter for a period of 12 months prior to being declared eligible.

The previous limit was 10 nanomoles and also required legal recognition in the athlete’s country of their gender identity. This new regulation removes the requirement of legal recognition and is solely focused on the hormone levels of the athletes who want to compete. According to the official IAAF Press Release,

“The Council approved the Eligibility Regulations for Transgender Athletes which now replace the former Sex Reassignment Regulations introduced in 2012. The updated regulations come into force on 1 October 2019. These Regulations have been drafted to align with the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) and include updates to reflect current medical standards and the legal framework.  

Under the new regulations a Transgender female athlete is no longer required to be recognised by law in her new gender but should provide a signed declaration that her gender identity is female. She must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Expert Panel that the concentration of testosterone in her serum has been less than 5nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 12 months prior to being declared eligible, and must keep her serum testosterone concentration below that level to maintain her eligibility to compete in the female category“

This separated from the very controversial Semenya Rule which originally required cisgender female athletes to test at under five nanomoles per liter prior to competition, and if they did not reach that limit, they would be required to take medication to artificially lower their testosterone to meet the limit. It is important to note that the Semenya Rule was directed specifically at cisgender female athletes like Semenya and not used for transgender athletes. This new rule brings the regulations for transgender athletes to be consistent with cisgender athletes as well.

The IAAF’s new transgender policy is also more restrictive than the general IOC guidelines regarding transgender participation. The IOC guidelines are similar but require the serum testosterone to remain below 10 nanomoles/ liter for 12 months rather than 5 nanomoles/liter that the IAAF requires.

By Dirk Smith