The Olympics Just Announced New Rules for Trans Inclusion

Nov 18, 2021

After several years of delays, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has finally announced an updated framework for the inclusion of trans athletes across various events.

The IOC released the “Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations” on Tuesday. Rather than dictating overarching rules for trans inclusion regardless of the actual sport, the Framework instead provides 10 “principles” that seek to guide individual sports federations in drafting new rules. They will be implemented starting after the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, with a “comprehensive roll-out phase” planned.

The previous rules, which were established in 2015, mandated that trans women’s testosterone levels must remain below 10 nmol/L for a year, despite the fact that the notion of a “normal” testosterone level is highly disputed. Athletes assigned female at birth and who didn’t exhibit hyperandrogenism, however, were allowed to compete without restrictions.

The new framework, on the other hand, makes no mention of specific hormone levels to which athletes must conform. In fact, one of the IOC’s new principles establishes an athlete’s “primacy of health and bodily autonomy,” and states that athletes should never be pressured by athletic governing boards to undergo “medically unnecessary procedures or treatment to meet eligibility criteria.” It also adds that eligibility should not be determined through gynecological exams or “similar forms of invasive physical examinations” that seek to determine an athlete’s sex. Athletic federations are also newly prohibited from subjecting athletes to targeted testing “aimed at determining their sex, gender identity and/or sex variations,” and should “seek to educate” team leaders in order to “prevent interpretations of their eligibility criteria that can lead to harm.”

Other principles announced by the IOC today establish that trans and intersex athletes should not be assumed to have an unfair advantage over their competitors without scientific evidence; that restrictions on their participation must be based on “robust and peer reviewed research;” and that athletes be able to contest restrictions through “internal mediation mechanisms” or through a quasi-judicial process.

Advocates praised the rollout of the new guidelines, which were developed over the course of a two-year consultation process with “more than 250 athletes and concerned stakeholders,” per a release from the IOC. Alex Schmider, GLAAD Associate Director Of Transgender Representation and producer of the documentary Changing the Game, called the framework “a victory for all athletes and fans.”

“Sports are for everyone, and fairness in sports means inclusion, belonging and safety for all who want to participate, including transgender, intersex, and nonbinary athletes,” Schmider said in a statement provided by GLAAD. He also added that the guidelines have repercussions extending beyond the world’s most elite athletic stages too.

“On the heels of the most anti-LGBTQ legislative session in history with the majority of bills targeting trans youth in sports, every state and lawmaker should listen to the experts from the world of sports, medicine, and athletes themselves to allow transgender youth the same opportunities to play with their friends, have fun, learn, grow, and benefit from the lasting life lessons and supportive community sports can provide,” Schmider added.

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The Olympics Just Announced New Rules for Trans Inclusion