Global sports community signs open letter to IAAF in support of intersex women athletes!

We have long awaited the day when athletes would step forward to support the intersex women unfairly targeted by the I.A.A.F. (the sports federation which governs track and field) and their discriminatory regulations, and that day has come! Today, Billie Jean King, Ally Wambach & five dozen other leading athletes joined Athlete Ally and the Women’s Sports Foundation in issuing an open letter to the I.A.A.F. demanding they rescind their new rules for women athletes with naturally high levels of testosterone.

Intersex refers to people born with atypical sex characteristics, and the IAAF and other sporting bodies such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have been targeting intersex women athletes for exclusion or “regulation” of their natural bodies for over fifty years. We note that while the athletes targeted by this regulation are women and may not use the term intersex to describe themselves, intersex refers to people with sex characteristics that are not typical for males or females, which is precisely what the IAAF has been seeking to “regulate”.

In 2015, Indian athlete Dutee Chand won her case in the Court of Sport, and in doing so, overturned the then current regulations which banned her and other women athletes with naturally high testosterone levels from competing as women unless they took unnatural, unwanted, and medically unnecessary hormones to lower their testosterone levels.

However, on April 26th this year, the IAAF released new rules for women athletes with naturally high testosterone levels, claiming that they have an unfair advantage in events from 400m to the mile, including 400m, hurdles races, 800m, 1500m, one mile races and combined events over the same distances (‘Restricted Events’), and requiring them to take hormones in order to compete in these events as women. The rules are based on a single study which has been criticized as being scientifically flawed, and ethically problematic due to its lack of peer review and the fact that it was authored by the IAAF’s own researchers.

The new rules have been widely criticized as being sexist and as specifically targeting black South African Olympian Caster Semenya, who was banned from competition in 2009 for over a year under regulations’ prior to the ones that banned Chand.
The Daily Beast
, The Guardian, and many more covered the issue, with Stanford bioethicist Katrina Karkazis, author of Fixing Sex, explaining in an interview with The Daily Beast that: “The study showed an ostensible performance advantage in five events, with the highest [advantages from testosterone] in hammer throw and pole vault. But hammer throw and pole vault are not regulated according to this new regulation—the lowest one, the 800m, though, is.”

In addition, the IAAF’s new rules have been deemed “blatantly racist” by many. The African National Congress (ANC) likened the rules to “apartheid-ere South Africa”, and the IAAF’s ongoing bias against intersex women of color was explored in depth in a fantastic article for The Guardian by Katrina Karkazis and Columbia professor Rebecca Jordan Young.

We commend the the amazing leaders in the field of athletics who have recognized these rules as discriminatory, exclusionary, and harmful:

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

Read full text of open letter here.



Global Sports Community Joins Athlete Ally and Women’s Sports Foundation in Calling on IAAF to Rescind Discriminatory Policy