Organisers of the World Masters Indoor Athletics Championships have warned of potential protests against transgender athletes during the competition which starts five days before the new World Athletics ban is implemented. The event is not under the jurisdiction of World Athletics but organisers had previously used the world governing body’s rules to explain the eligibility of trans athletes including Italian sprinter, Valentina Petrillo, for women’s over-45 200m and 400m races. The event starts in Poland on 21 March and finishes on 27 March, bookending the Friday when World Athletics’ new ruling against transgender women going through male puberty competing in the female category comes into effect. The decision has not prompted organiser to reassess their policy regarding transgender athletes.
WMA issued a statement stating that it had garnered attention that some unacceptable comments had been placed online regarding the participation of transgender athletes in the championships. It clarified that any transgender athlete accepted into the competition had followed and fulfilled the rules and regulations of World Athletics, had been screened and approved and was therefore eligible to compete. It also disapproved of the behaviour that involves intimidation, bullying, aggression or any other unacceptable actions that would not be tolerated in any civilised society, stating that such behaviour would be dealt with appropriately.
Valentina Petrillo, who attempted to qualify for the Paralympics, is visually impaired and began living as a woman in 2018, started hormone therapy the following year. In a 2021 interview with the BBC, Petrillo stated that she respects and complies with the IOC and World Athletics’ rules, and undergoes testing, adding that she does not believe she is stealing anything from anyone. Petrillo is fourth on the list of entrants for the women’s over-45 400m, behind Irish athlete Annette Quaid and British athletes Elizabeth Amos and Susie McLoughlin. She is also the second-fastest in the 200m, behind Karen Burles of the UK, the latter being conducted on 30 and 31 March.
Transgender athletes’ participation in various sporting events has always been controversial. The issue around this participation is that it has the potential to affect policy formulation globally, which will ultimately impact international sports regulation.