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Transgender Runner Barred from Olympics after Failing to Lower Testosterone Levels

The starting blocks at the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., February 15, 2020 (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports/Reuters)

Transgender athlete CeCe Telfer did not qualify to compete in the women’s 400-meter hurdles track event at U.S. Olympic trials after failing to meet criteria set by World Athletics in its eligibility rules for certain women’s sports.

Telfer first competed for the men’s team at Division II Franklin Pierce, then later returned to compete for the women’s team after a hiatus. In 2019, CeCe Telfer won an NCAA title in the Women’s Division II 400m hurdle, the first biological male to earn that award.

Telfer was barred from competing in the Olympic trials for failing to satisfy the eligibility requirements for international women’s events between 400 meters and a mile. The specific condition that was unmet was that the athlete’s testosterone level was not below five monopoles per liter (nmol/L) for a time period of twelve months.

Telfer’s manager David McFarland said Telfer would not object to the decision. “CeCe has turned her focus towards the future and is continuing to train. She will compete on the national — and world — stage again soon,” McFarland said.

World Athletics determines the eligibility stipulations for the Olympics and by default the Olympic trials, USA Track and Field (USATF) wrote in a statement, explaining Telfer’s exclusion from the event.

“Following notification from World Athletics on June 17 that the conditions had not yet been met, USATF provided CeCe with the eligibility requirements and, along with World Athletics, the opportunity to demonstrate her eligibility so that she could compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. According to subsequent notification to CeCe from World Athletics on June 22, she has not been able to demonstrate her eligibility,” the statement read.

USATF said it “strongly supports inclusivity and providing a clear path to participation in the sport for all, while also maintaining competitive fairness.”

“If CeCe meets the conditions for transgender athlete participation in the future, we wholeheartedly back her participation in international events as a member of Team USATF,” it added.

The Olympics trials’ move to uphold its physical health regulations for competitors comes amid a contentious debate surrounding transgender individuals participating in sports of their opposite biological sex. Multiple Republican-controlled states have enacted legislation banning transgenders from women’s sports in an effort to preserve competition and fair play.

New England weightlifter Laurel Hubbard just became the first transgender athlete to become eligible to compete at the Olympics, a development that New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith called a “historic moment in sport and for the New Zealand team.” Smith confirmed, however, that Hubbard met the required criteria.

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