Hurdler CeCé Telfer Refuses to “Hang Up Her Spikes”


American 400-meter hurdler Cecé Telfer is intent on pursuing her goals in track and field despite recent regulations by World Athletics/Source: CNN Sports

Matilda McLaren, Sports Editor

March 21, 2023 was the final day that transgender women who have undergone what World Athletics (WA) refers to as “male puberty” are permitted to compete in international athletics events. Pivotally, this day also marked the International Transgender Day of Visibility.

World Athletics made the decision after a two-month proceeding, for what they called the preservation of “female integrity” for competitors over inclusion.

“My overall feeling is definitely devastation”, expressed Telfer in a live interview on CNN not long after the decision was released. “Everything that I’ve worked blood, sweat, and tears for has just gone down the drain like that.”

Telfer said that the decision was not only detrimental for her hopes to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympics, but that this “blatant discrimination” on the side of an international federation like World Athletics impacts the entire transgender community. The new regulation comes at an unseemly time- only three years earlier in 2019, Telfer became the first out transgender woman to win an NCAA title in the 400-meter hurdles event. This feat appeared to be a stride in the right direction for transgender rights in international sports.

Telfer said that she reached out to five-hundred coaches in the recent year, hoping to gain professional insight and guidance in preparation for the Olympics. None of them agreed to train her long-term, “After seeing the controversy that has revolved around an athlete like me, a lot of coaches feel as though their reputation is going to be jeopardized or their career is on the line.”

Since 2004, transgender athletes have been able to compete on an international stage at the Olympic Games. Yet, not a single transgender athlete has made it to the podium for track and field competition.

According to a 2017 study by the Journal of Sports Medicine, there is no research conveying a direct correlation between the participation of transgender athletes in international athletic events and an unfair advantage over their cissgender counterparts.

Undoubtedly, the decision reached by World Athletics is a controversial one. But Telfer has no intention to discontinue her pursuits of stardom, as she expressed in an emotional portion of her interview on television, “This decision… is not going to keep me back. And it’s not going to cause me to hang up my spikes. Every person has the right to compete and to practice sports without discrimination- age, gender, race, sexual orientation, that is what the Olympic Charter is all about.”

It is probable that Telfer’s unwavering commitment to rally for the rights of transgender women in sports will galvanize those around her. Next month, World Athletics will hold a second proceeding, except this time a transgender athlete can be present for the discussion. Telfer made it clear that she would “absolutely” want to represent her community with such an opportunity.