The International Olympic Committee is moving away from a focus on individual testosterone levels in transgender and intersex athletes as a way of determining those athletes’ eligibility for competition.
The new directives replace a 2015 IOC policy that demanded transgender and intersex athletes have testosterone levels below a certain threshold measured through a testing process that could be damaging to the athletes.
“Every athlete has the right to practice sport without discrimination and in a way that respects their health, safety and dignity,” the new guidelines state. “At the same time the credibility of competitive sport — and particularly high-level sporting competitions — relies on a level playing field where no athlete has an unfair or disproportionate advantage over the rest.”
At this summer’s Tokyo Games, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender female athlete to compete in the Olympics.
IOC officials said they hoped the new guidelines will allow sports to tailor their gender eligibility policies in more equitable ways. They said that in studying ways to update the policy they discovered that many sports federations were devising their own rules for gender eligibility.
“This is guidance; it’s not an absolute rule,” said Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical and scientific director.
The new policy asks sports organizations to look at a number of factors including inclusion, prevention of harm and fairness when making their rules. But the biggest seemed to be backing away from testosterone limits.
“It’s important we broaden the evidence base,” Budgett said. “There is some interesting research that needs to come to conclusion, and that will give us much more information about performance which is the issue which is really key to determining eligibility.”
The IOC hopes to start holding workshops with sports organizations in March, after the Beijing Winter Olympics.
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The Tokyo Olympics have come to a close.