The World Athletics Council has today made a number of important decisions regarding the future participation of the Russian and Belarusian Member Federations in athletics, and the eligibility regulations for athletes who are transgender or who have Differences in Sexual Development (DSD).
The Council agreed to the reinstatement of the Russian Federation (RusAF) following seven years of suspension due to egregious institutional doping violations. However, athletes, officials and supporting personnel from Russia and Belarus are still excluded from competition for the foreseeable future due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Russia Taskforce recommendation
The Council approved the Russia Taskforce’s recommendation that RusAF, which has been suspended for seven years due to doping, be reinstated after meeting all the requirements of the Reinstatement plan, which has been confirmed by an independent audit.
However, RusAF will be required to comply with a set of 35 ‘Special Conditions’ that are intended to ensure that RusAf’s anti-doping reforms remain in place and continue to operate effectively.
These Special Conditions are designed to enable the Athletics Integrity Unit to monitor, evaluate, communicate, mentor, oversee, and assist RusAF and its external stakeholders to ensure they maintain good governance practices and to protect RusAF from external pressures and attempts to influence or control its functioning.
They focus on four areas: organisational good governance, protection from inappropriate external influence and control, operational capability and capacity (with a particular emphasis on ethical and anti-doping requirements, and change in the regions), and budget allocation and fiscal management.
These Special Conditions are intended to be applied for a period of three years, with a review at the end of that period to determine whether or not it is necessary to maintain those conditions (as they are or with variations) for a further period.
Totalling 35 separate monitoring and evaluation measures, the special conditions cover organisational governance, presidium leadership oversight, anti-doping, cultural change in the regions, engagement with external stakeholders, ethics, anti-corruption and anti-conflicts of interest, and fiscal management.
Further, the Athletics Integrity Unit has determined that RusAF should be categorised as a Category ‘A’ member federation after its reinstatement.
That means that RusAF will have to comply not only with the general obligations applicable to all member federations that are set out in WA ADR 15.4 but also with the special obligations applicable to Category ‘A’ member federations that are set out in WA ADR 15.5. These federations are subject to greater scrutiny and more testing requirements.
The Taskforce confirmed that RusAF has paid all of the costs of the reinstatement process until the end of 2022. World Athletics will invoice RusAF in early April for the costs incurred by World Athletics in January-March, and the prompt payment of that invoice will be one of the Special Conditions.
RusAF must also pay all of the costs incurred by the AIU in overseeing RusAF’s compliance with the Category A requirements and the Special Conditions over the next three years, as well as any World Athletics costs in connection with this oversight.
As a consequence of these decisions, the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) programme will be discontinued, and the Doping Review Board, which rules on ANA applications, will be stood down.
The Russia Taskforce, having completed its work, will be disbanded and the two international experts who have advised it will be stood down.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said: “I would like to express my deep gratitude to Rune Andersen and the Taskforce members for staying the course and helping us to resolve a major integrity issue in our sport. It has been a mammoth undertaking over seven years but their commitment and diligence have given the Council confidence that the Russian Federation has reformed its structure and culture and is now on the right path in terms of addressing doping issues. It is important that RusAF continues on this path, but we are confident the Athletics Integrity Unit has the expertise to monitor and assess the situation going forwards.”
War in Ukraine
The World Athletics Council has also reaffirmed the decision it originally made in March 2022, to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes, support personnel, Member Federation officials and officials who are citizens of those two countries from all World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future.
These sanctions take effect immediately and include:
a. no hosting of any International or European athletics events, which includes World Athletics Series, Continental Tour meetings and other International Competitions;
b. no right to attend, speak and/or vote at meetings of Congress;
c. no accreditation to attend any World Athletics Series events;
d. no involvement of Member Federation personnel in any official World Athletics development or professional programmes; and
e. Athletes, Athlete Support Personnel, Member Federation Officials and Officials who are Citizens of Russia and Belarus are excluded from World Athletics Series Events for the foreseeable future.
The Council recommends to the meeting organisers of the Diamond League, Continental Tour, Label Races and the various other Tours that they take the same approach and exclude Athletes and Officials from RusAF and the Belarus Athletic Federation.
The Council also agreed to establish a working group to advise and recommend to Council the conditions that would need to be met for the restrictions on Athletes and Officials from RusAF and the Belarus Athletic Federation participating in World Athletics Series Events to be lifted.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said: “As I noted at the time these measures were introduced last year, the unprecedented sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus by countries and industries all over the world appear to be the only peaceful way to disrupt and disable Russia’s current intentions and restore peace. The death and destruction we have seen in Ukraine over the past year, including the deaths of some 185 athletes, have only hardened my resolve on this matter. The integrity of our major international competitions has already been substantially damaged by the actions of the Russian and Belarusian governments, through the hardship inflicted on Ukrainian athletes and the destruction of Ukraine’s sports systems. Russian and Belarusian athletes, many of whom have military affiliations, should not be beneficiaries of these actions.”
In accordance with the World Athletics constitution, the Member Federations from Russia and Belarus have been informed of the Council’s decisions and have the right to respond. If necessary, the Council will reconvene to consider that response.
Transgender and DSD Regulations
For DSD athletes, the new regulations will require any relevant athletes to reduce their testosterone levels below a limit of 2.5 nmol/L for a minimum of 24 months to compete internationally in the female category in any event, not just the events that were restricted (400m to one mile) under the previous regulations.
The principle of restricted events has been removed from the regulations.
Interim provisions will be introduced for those relevant athletes who are already competing in what were the unrestricted events (distances below 400m and above one mile, plus field events). These provisions include a requirement to suppress their testosterone levels below 2.5nmol/L for a minimum of six months before they are eligible to compete again.
The six months period is consistent with the previous regulations, which required six months of testosterone suppression (below 5nmol/L) for DSD athletes to compete in the restricted events. The interim provisions do not apply to the previously restricted events (400m to one mile) where two years of testosterone suppression will be required before the relevant athlete is eligible to compete.
These regulations will come into effect on 31 March 2023.
In regard to transgender athletes, the Council has agreed to exclude male-to-female transgender athletes who have been through male puberty from the female World Rankings competition from 31 March 2023.
World Athletics conducted a consultation period with various stakeholders in the first two months of this year, including Member Federations, the Global Athletics Coaches Academy and Athletes’ Commission, the IOC as well as representative transgender and human rights groups.
It became apparent that there was little support within the sport for the option that was first presented to stakeholders, which required transgender athletes to maintain their testosterone levels below 2.5nmol/L for 24 months to be eligible to compete internationally in the female category.
In terms of DSD regulations, World Athletics has more than ten years of research and evidence of the physical advantages that these athletes bring to the female category.
However, there are currently no transgender athletes competing internationally in athletics and consequently no athletics-specific evidence of the impact these athletes would have on the fairness of female competition in athletics.
In these circumstances, the Council decided to prioritise fairness and the integrity of the female competition before inclusion.
However, the Council agreed to set up a Working Group for 12 months to further consider the issue of transgender inclusion.
This Working Group will include an independent chair, up to three Council Members, two athletes from the Athletes’ Commission, a transgender athlete, three representatives of the Member Federations and representatives of the World Athletics Health and Science Department.
Its remit will be to consult specifically with transgender athletes to seek their views on competing in athletics; to review and/or commission additional research where there is currently limited research and to put forward recommendations to Council.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said: “Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups, but we continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations. We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage which will inevitably develop over the coming years. As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount.”