WMA urges physicians not to implement IAAF rules on classifying women athletes

The World Medical Association has called on physicians around the world to take no part in implementing new eligibility regulations for classifying female athletes.

The regulations from the International Association of Athletics Federations require women athletes with specific differences in sex development to medically reduce their natural blood testosterone level if they wish to continue racing as women in a few restricted events.

The DSD (Differences of Sexual Development) rule, introduced last year, followed the case of South African runner Caster Semenya, the world and Olympic champion, who has had to undergo gender verification testing to confirm her eligibility to compete in the women’s division.

Next week, the Court of Arbitration for Sport is due to issue a decision on the IAAF regulations.

At its Council meeting in Santiago, Chile, today, the WMA demanded the immediate withdrawal of the regulations. It said they constitute a flagrant discrimination based on the genetic variation of female athletes and are contrary to international medical ethics and human rights standards.

Following an initiative by the South African Medical Association the WMA fears the regulations would constrain the athletes concerned to take unjustified medication, not based on medical need, in order for them to be allowed to compete, and accordingly require physicians to prescribe such medication.

It is in general considered as unethical for physicians to prescribe treatment for excessive endogenous testosterone if the condition is not recognized as pathological. The WMA calls on physicians to oppose and refuse to perform any test or administer any treatment or medicine which is not in accordance with medical ethics, and which might be harmful to the athlete using it, especially to artificially modifying blood constituents, biochemistry or endogenous testosterone.

WMA President Dr. Leonid Eidelman said: ‘We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations. They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community. They are also contrary to a number of key WMA ethical statements and declarations, and as such we are calling for their immediate withdrawal’.