The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday said that no athlete should be excluded from competition on the grounds of a perceived unfair advantage due to their gender as it released a new framework on transgender inclusion.
No athlete should be excluded based on an “unverified, alleged or perceived unfair competitive advantage due to their sex variations, physical appearance and/or transgender status,” the IOC said.
However, the governing body added that it was not in a position to issue regulations that define eligibility criteria for every sport, leaving it up to federations to determine if an athlete is at a disproportionate advantage.
Ruling some athletes ineligible in some sports is still expected with safety noted as a specific issue for combat and contact sports.
“The framework is not legally binding. What we are offering to all the international federations is our expertise and a dialogue, rather than jumping to a conclusion,” IOC Athletes’ Department director Kaveh Mehrabi said. “This is a process that we have to go through with each federation on a case-by-case basis and see what is required.”
The 10-point document is to be rolled out after the Beijing Winter Games next year, replacing the guidelines issued in 2015.
It follows years of consultation with medical and human rights experts and, since 2019, athletes directly affected to help draft guidelines promoting fairness and inclusion.
It is published after the Tokyo Olympic Games where the first openly transgender athlete, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, competed at the Games and defending 800m champion Caster Semenya is among track athletes with intersex conditions and naturally high testosterone levels excluded from their events.
The new framework also moves away from the old policy that said transgender athletes would be allowed to compete provided their testosterone levels were below a certain limit for at least 12 months before their first competition.
The IOC also said sex testing and “invasive physical examinations” used to verify an athlete’s gender were “disrespectful” and “potentially harmful.”
“We really want to make sure that athletes are not pressured or coerced into making a harmful decision about their bodies,” IOC head of human rights Magali Martowicz said.
“Athletes should be allowed to compete but unfair advantage needs to be regulated,” said the IOC, which plans to help fund research into elite performance by transgender and intersex athletes.
“We have not found the solution to this big question,” IOC spokesman Christian Klaue said. “Clearly this is a topic that will be with us for a long time.”
Additional reporting by AP
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