Press releases 15th May 2019

Physician leaders reaffirm opposition to IAAF Rules

The World Medical Association has reaffirmed its opposition to IAAF gender rules for classifying female athletes as ‘contrary to medical ethics’. In a letter to the International Association of Athletic Federations, the WMA says ‘we stand firm against any practice requiring physicians to use their competence and skills for any other purpose than providing medical care in the best interest of their patients and in respect of their dignity’.

The IAAF rules require women athletes with specific differences in sex development to medically reduce their natural blood testosterone. The letter from WMA leaders is in response to last week’s open letter from the IAAF which ruled that Olympian Caster Semenya must take drugs to suppress her testosterone levels to compete in certain women’s races, or she can compete with men in ‘any competition at any level’ and ‘without restriction’.

The WMA letter from WMA President Dr. Leonid Eidelman and WMA Chair Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery notes the controversy surrounding the IAAF scientific arguments, but says its opposition to the regulations is based solely on strict ethical considerations. They write: ‘A medical treatment (with a few legal exceptions, which do not apply here) is only justified when there is a medical need. The mere existence of an intersex condition, without the person indicating suffering and expressing the desire for an adequate treatment, does not constitute a medical indication.

‘The days when doctors or society would determine which gender a person should have are definitely over. It is the ethical duty of physicians to respect the dignity and integrity of people, regardless of whether they are female, male, intersex or transgender. Medical treatment for the sole purpose of altering the performance in sport is not permissible’.

• This media release was published by the World Medical Association (WMA) on 15 May 2019. Click here for the original.

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