Global Sports Community Joins WSF and Athlete Ally in Calling on IAAF to Rescind Discriminatory Policy

Published on July 10th, 2018

UPDATED: August 6, 2018

After the IAAF issued a public response to our July 10 letter, we teamed with Athlete Ally once again to release this additional statement:

Dear Lord Coe,

Despite sentiments included in your letter, we feel that the IAAF is, in fact, trying to prevent women from competing in athletics. Women do not have a “choice” if they are forced to compete in a male category or an intersex category which, to our knowledge, does not exist. Furthermore, we are deeply troubled by your standing behind data that is fundamentally flawed to do so.

Though the IAAF cites scientific evidence to justify this policy, the fact remains that you have yet to release any meaningful evidence to support your position. While we appreciate your concerns regarding the privacy of athletes, there is a tremendous need for reliable and sound science in this field before policies to limit women’s participation are put in place. In fact, many independent researchers have called out the IAAF data as flawed; the integrity of your methodology has been questioned (Karkazis & Meyerowitz-Katz, 2017Sőnksen et al., 2018Pielke Jr., Tucker & Boye 2018;Gelman 2017Menier, 2018Franklin, Ospina Betancurt, & Camporesi, 2018). Moreover, in 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned an almost identical IAAF regulation. As you know, CAS carefully weighed an extensive body of scientific evidence and was unable to conclude that the impact of naturally elevated testosterone on women’s performance was so much more substantial than the benefits caused by other factors, such as nutrition, access to specialist training facilities and coaching, and other genetic and biological variations. In its ruling, CAS considered the rights of all women athletes as set out in the Olympic Charter and IAAF Constitution and concluded that the regulation was discriminatory and infringed on the rights of a minority group.

We understand that the women’s category is a restricted category; however, to compare the restricted nature of women’s sports to youth sports is paternalistic and only further infantilizes women’s athletics. Sports that are divided by weight to establish fair competition are also not analogous; athletes choose which weight class in which to compete and are never forced by the sport governing body to medically alter their body in order to compete in a particular weight class. Therefore, these comparisons are neither fair nor accurate.

Furthermore, what remains concerning is that the IAAF’s most recent regulation likely violates human rights laws of numerous countries around the world. With policies in place that violate the fundamental human rights of women and prevent them from competing, you are dismantling, not “protecting,” women’s sports and also hampering worldwide efforts to create a safe and inclusive environment for future generations of girls and women.

Once again, we urge you to rescind this discriminatory policy.


Athlete Ally & Women’s Sports Foundation

Our original letter was published July 10 in response to the recent IAAF regulations, which openly discriminate against female athletes with naturally higher levels of testosterone, more than 60 athletes in the global sports community have signed on to a letter to advocate for an equitable and inclusive athletic experience for all. The powerful letter has been endorsed by WSF Founder Billie Jean King and WSF President Grete Eliassen as well as Abby Wambach, Aimee Mullins, Megan Rapinoe, Meghan Duggan and Jessica Mendoza.

Dear Members of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council:

We the undersigned members of the sports community are deeply troubled by the recently announced regulations that discriminate against female athletes with naturally elevated testosterone that would require them to undergo medically unnecessary interventions to lower their testosterone levels as a precondition of participation in sport.

No woman should be required to change her body to compete in women’s sport.

These regulations continue the invasive surveillance and judgment of women’s bodies that have long tainted women’s sport. They intensify the unfair scrutiny that female athletes already experience and exacerbate discrimination against women in sport who are perceived as not prescribing to normative ideas about femininity, which can include their appearance, their gender expression, and their sexuality.

As Dutee Chand said regarding the last regulation: “I do not wish to see anyone else go through the process that I had to go through or be scrutinized the way that I was. My heart goes out to all the women who are targeted by the new regulation.”

Such discrimination undermines the spirit of sport, and violates the 4th fundamental principle of the Olympic Charter, to which the IAAF adheres:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

As leaders in our athletic community, we believe that sport changes the world when it welcomes and empowers all people. What is at stake here is far more than the right to participate in a sport. Women’s bodies, their wellbeing, their ability to earn a livelihood, their very identity, their privacy and sense of safety and belonging in the world, are at imminent risk.

We demand you rescind these discriminatory regulations, and stand with female athletes globally in pursuit of an equitable and inclusive athletic experience.


Billie Jean King Founder, Women’s Sports Foundation, tennis
Abby Wambach Two-time Olympic Gold medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion
Aimee Mullins Paralympian, Women’s Hall of Fame, track & field
Alana Nichols Three-time Paralympic Gold medalist, canoeing, skiing, wheelchair basketball
Angela Hucles Two-time Olympic Gold medalist, soccer
Angela Ruggiero Olympic Gold medalist, Hockey Hall of Fame
Anna Turney Two-time Paralympian, skiing
Annie Pokorny Professional cross-country skier, NCAA All-American
Ashwini Nanchappa Olympian, track & field
Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir NCAA basketball player, lead activist in overturning FIBA’s hijab ban
Bree Schaaf Olympian, skeleton
Brenda Villa Olympic Gold medalist, water polo
Carrie Sheinberg Olympian, skiing
Casey Legler Olympian, swimming
Charmaine Reid Olympian, badminton
Chris Mosier USA Triathlete
Collette Smith First NY Jets female coach
Dawn Riley Only American to sail in three America’s Cups and two Whitbread Round-the-World Races
Devin Logan Olympic Silver medalist, snowboarding
Dutee Chand Olympian, track field
Elana Meyers Taylor Two-time Olympic Silver medalist, bobsled
Elena Hight Two-time Olympian, X-Games Gold medalist, snowboarding
Eli Wolf Paralympian, soccer
Erin Hamlin Olympic Bronze medalist, luge
Esther Lofgren Olympic Gold medalist, rowing
Grete Eliassen WSF President, two-time Winter X Games Gold medalist, skiing
Hannah Kearney Olympic Gold medalist, skiing
Hedvig Lindahl Olympian, Chelsea FC Women
Jaelin Kauf Olympian, World Championships Bronze medalist, skiing
Jen Hudak Five-time Winter X Games medalist, skiing
Jessica Fishlock Seattle Reign FC co-captain
Jessica Long 23-time Paralympic medalist, swimming
Jessica Mendoza Two-time Olympic medalist, U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, softball
Joanna Lohman Professional soccer player, Washington Spirit FC
Josh Dixon World Cup Champion, two-time NCAA Team Champion, gymnastics
Julia Boserup Professional tennis player, member of the WTA player council
Katelin Guregian Olympic Gold medalist, rowing
Kathryn Roach World Rowing Under 23 Champion
Laurence Halsted Olympian, fencing
Layshia Clarendon WNBA All-Star
Lee Ford Paralympian, archery
Leslie Osborne Retired NWSL player, NCAA Champion
Lori Lindsey Olympic Gold medalist, soccer
Lyn St. James Seven-time Indianapolis 500 driver
Madeleine Pape Olympian, track & field
Mary Harvey Olympian, Retired NWSL player
Mary Osborne Three-time Women’s Pro Champion, surfing
Mary Whipple Two-time Olympic Gold medalist, rowing
Maya Reddy Retired Professional golfer
Megan Kalmoe Olympic Bronze medalist, rowing
Megan Rapinoe Olympic Gold medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion
Meghan Duggan Olympic Gold medalist, U.S. Women’s National Ice Hockey team co-captain
Meghan O’Leary Olympian, World Rowing Championship Silver medalist
Nancy Hogshead-Makar Three-time Olympic Gold medalist, swimming
Nika Ouellette Three-time NCAA All-American, track & field
Oksana Masters Eight-time Paralympic medalist, biathlon, cycling, rowing, skiing
Pam Boteler The True Athlete Project, WomenCAN International President, canoeing
Patti Kauf Three-time X Games Bronze medalist, skiing
Phaidra Knight USA Rugby’s Player of the Decade, World Rugby Hall of Fame
Pinki Paramanik Asian Games Gold medalist, track & field
Rachel Dawson Three-time Olympian, field hockey
Sasha DiGiulian World Champion, over 30 First Female Ascents, climbing
Sophia Herzog Paralympic Silver medalist, swimming
Suzy Favor Hamilton Three-time Olympian, track & field
Toccara Ross Professional basketball player, SEABL
Wendy Hilliard USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame
Yael Averbuch Professional soccer player, Seattle Reign FC

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