According to new guidelines adopted by the IOC, transgender athletes should be able to compete in the Olympics and other international events without undergoing sex reassignment surgery.
Medical officials for the International Olympic Committee said on Sunday that they updated the policy to adapt scientific and legal attitudes on transgender issues.
However, IOC’s guidelines are meant as recommendations, not as rules or guidelines for international sports federations and bodies, and should apply to this year’s Olympic games.
Dr Richard Budgett, IOC medical director, had this to say: “I don’t think many federations have rules on defining eligibility of transgender individuals. This should give them the confidence and stimulus to put these rules in place.”
The previous IOC guidelines, which were approved back in 2003, stated that athletes who transition from female to make or vice versa were required to have gender reassignment surgery and two years of hormone therapy in order to be eligible.
Under the new guidelines, surgery will no longer be required and female-to-male transgender athletes will be eligible to take part in in men’s competitions “without restrictions”.
As for male-to-female athletes, they will need to demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below a certain cutoff point for at least one year in order to compete.
The IOC says in a PDF they posted outlining the guidelines: “It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition. The overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition. To require surgical anatomical changes as a precondition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights.”
Arne Ljungqvist, Former IOC medical commission chairman, was among the experts who drafted the new guidelines, and he said that the consensus was driven by political and societal changes.
When speaking to the Associated Press, he said: “It has become much more of a social issue than in the past. We had to review and look into this from a new angle. We needed to adapt to the modern legislation around the world. We felt we cannot impose a surgery if that is no longer a legal requirement.”
“Those cases are very few, but we had to answer the question. It is an adaptation to a human rights issue. This is an important matter. It’s a trend of being more flexible and more liberal.”
The IOC finished up by saying: “To avoid discrimination, if not eligible for female competition, the athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition.”
Check out the PDF for their full statement and guidelines. These guidelines seem more than fair, and ensure no discrimination to athletes but also fairness in competition.