There are few sports tropes more inspiring than an athlete’s dream of representing their country at the Olympics coming true — especially when that country is hosting the Games.
Conversely, when an athlete has that opportunity ripped away by forces out of their control, that has to be one of the most deflating experiences anyone could ever feel.
With Paris 2024 looming next year, that nightmare scenario is playing out for transgender sprinter Halba Diouf.
Diouf had aspired to run for her native France in front of the home crowd at next year’s Olympics. For years, she had concentrated on improving her time in the 200 meters with the goal of qualifying for the national team and had won the 200-meter regionals in Miramas as recently as this past January.
Then in an instant, her dream was shattered in March when World Athletics banned transgender women from competing in the female category of track and field events.
All of a sudden, everything Diouf, 21, had trained for was for naught.
Her frustration spilled over in an interview with Reuters’ Noemie Olive. “I cannot understand this decision as transgender women have always been allowed to compete if their testosterone levels were below a certain threshold,” she said.
This response was natural from an elite level athlete who, since transitioning in 2021, had closely monitored her testosterone levels to ensure that she was competing according to World Athletics rules.
As endocrinologist Alain Berliner explained to Reuters, Diouf “is a woman from a physiological, hormonal, and legal point of view. Her testosterone levels are currently below those found on average in women who were born as women.”
But once World Athletics announced its ban, the care Diouf had put in to monitor her testosterone level no longer mattered. It was clear that her sport’s governing body was not going to let her compete with other women regardless of what she had previously done to comply with their rules.
“The only safeguard transgender women have is their right to live as they wish and we are being refused that. We are being hounded,” she proclaimed, “I feel marginalized because they are excluding me from competitions.”
In addition to representing the transgender community on the track, Diouf is also a practicing Muslim. If she had been allowed to attempt to qualify for the Olympics, the intersectionality of her background would’ve been one of the most unique and fascinating stories at the Paris Games.
Thanks to the decision by World Athletics, her tale is instead one of immense frustration and disappointment.