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New Olympic policy set to remove testosterone guidelines for transgender athletes

Should the IOC's new rules pass, male atheletes will be allowed to partake in women's sports if they identify as women.

New Olympic policy set to remove testosterone guidelines for transgender athletes
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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The International Olympic Committee has suggested a new set of policies that will abandon the organization’s 2015 guidelines that set limits on testosterone for competing athletes.

Under the new guidelines, any transgender athletes who wish to compete in women’s sports would not be required to reduce their testosterone limits. The rules go as far as to state that there should be “no presumption” that biologically male transgender athletes have an automatic advantage over biological females.

Should the rules pass, it would essentially allow male athletes to partake in women’s sports so long as they identify as women, 4W reported.

The framework draft for the IOC Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations states that “every person has the right to practice sport without discrimination, and in a way that respects their health, safety and dignity, at the same time, the credibility of competitive sport — and particularly high level organized sporting competitions — relies on a level playing field, where no athlete has an unfair and disproportionate advantage over the rest.”

The report adds:

This Framework recognises both the need to ensure that everyone, irrespective of their gender identity or sex variations, can practise sport in a safe, harassment-free environment that recognises and respects their needs and identities, and the interest of everyone – particularly athletes at elite level – to participate in fair competitions where no participant has an unfair and disproportionate advantage over the rest.

At face value, the framework sounds fair and equitable to female athletes, but further investigation into the framework includes claims that bring to question the IOC’s understanding of human biology.

“Until evidence determines otherwise, athletes should not be deemed to have an unfair or disproportionate competitive advantage due to their sex variations, physical appearance, or transgender status,” the draft reads.

Under previous guidelines, the IOC called on biologically male transgender individuals who identify as women to suppress their testosterone levels to under 10 n/mol per litre for at least 12 months to compete. The guidelines are not legally binding but exist as a set of recommendations for sporting bodies to make their own determinations.

The new draft removes any such language, and does not recommend testosterone suppression in transgender athletes.

The IOC’s draft framework goes against recommendations made by the United Kingdom’s Sports Council, which produced a comprehensive report indicating that it is impossible to guarantee fairness in women’s sports if trans athletes are allowed to participate, Rebel News reported.  

In 2020, the British Journal of Sports Medicine released a study that found transgender male athletes retained a 12 per cent competitive advantage two years after beginning hormone therapy, and even suggested that the IOC’s existing recommendations on trans athletes are already too lenient.  

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