World Masters issues warning over protests against trans athletes

·2-min read
Valentina Petrillo - Marco Mantovani/Getty Images)
Valentina Petrillo - Marco Mantovani/Getty Images)

Organisers of the World Masters Indoor Athletics Championships have issued a warning over potential protests against transgender athletes during a competition that begins just five days before World Athletics’ new ban comes into force.

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 the Italian sprinter Valentina Petrillo, who is expected to challenge in the women’s 200m and 400m races for over-45s.

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The event begins in Poland on Sunday and finishes next Saturday, dates that fall either side of Friday’s implementation of World Athletics' new ruling that transgender women should not compete in the female category if they have gone through male puberty.

Organisers did not respond when asked on Friday whether the decision would mean any reassessment of their policy. The inclusion of transgender athletics had been controversial even before Thursday’s ruling of the World Athletics Council.

“It has been brought to the attention of WMA (World Masters Athletics) that there have been some unacceptable comments placed online regarding the participation by transgender athletes,” said a statement on the competition’s website. “These comments have suggested that a protest might take place regarding the acceptance of transgender athletes into the competition.

“Any transgender athlete who has been accepted into the competition has followed and fulfilled the rules and regulations of World Athletics and has been screened and approved by World Athletics and is therefore eligible to compete.

“Any behaviour that involves intimidation, bullying, aggression or any other unacceptable actions, which would not be tolerated in any civilised society, will be dealt with appropriately.”

The 400m, where Petrillo is listed fourth fastest among entrants behind British duo Elizabeth Amos and Susie McLoughlin, and Ireland’s Annette Quaid, takes place between March 26 and March 28. Petrillo is rated second fastest in the 200m, behind Britain’s Karen Burles, which will be held on March 30 and March 31.

Petrillo, who is visually impaired and also attempted to qualify for the Paralympics, began living as a woman in 2018 and started hormone therapy the following year. In an interview in 2021 with the BBC, she said: "I respect and comply with the IOC and World Athletics rules, I do the tests. I don't feel like I'm stealing anything from anyone."