New IOC transgender guidelines criticized as unfair to women’s sport | International Olympic Committee
The International Olympic Committee’s new transgender framework has come under fire from medical experts working for several sports bodies, including World Athletics, World Triathlon and the International Cycling Union, who say it opens the floodgates to unfair competition in women’s sport.
In a notable intervention, the scientists warn that the IOC’s new guidance – which says trans women don’t have to lower their testosterone levels to compete against born women – ignores the science on sex, gender and performance and focuses mostly on inclusion. The new framework, which also applies to athletes with gender development disparities, such as South African 800-meter runner Caster Semenya, is set to be rolled out after next month’s Winter Olympics. It comes amid the high-profile cases of weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, the first openly trans woman to compete in the Olympics, and US trans woman Lia Thomas, who recently set a string of college swimming records.
However, scientists associated with the International Federation of Sports Medicine and the European Federation of Sports Medicine Associations want the IOC to reconsider. Writing in the British medical journal Open Science & Exercise Medicine, they also point out that the IOC’s new position that there should be “no presumption of performance advantage” for trans women “is in stark contrast to the conclusion of the 2015 IOC consensus scientific evidence and the subsequent evaluation of numerous sports medicine associations/commissions”.
The statement, which was signed by 38 authors, including the head of World Athletics’ medical department, the medical director of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, and the chair of World Rowing’s medical committee, also calls on the IOC to set formal standards based on fairness in competition and the best available science for the sport to follow.
One of the authors, Yannis Pitsiladis, told the Guardian: “We believe this statement is very important because it will force the IOC to open the debate. Yes, the inclusion of human rights is absolutely necessary. But equally important is the incorporation of scientific and medical principles in determining a solution. And the IOC framework is not based on medical and scientific principles.”
The scientists argue that there is a way to allow trans women to compete in women’s sports by lowering testosterone levels. According to Pitsiladis, one way to achieve this is to change the rules regarding testosterone by sport, with less emphasis on drug use in events like shooting and more on collision sports.
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However, other scholars insist that there is overwhelming evidence that there is no way trans women can enter women’s sports without sacrificing fairness. They point to recent studies showing that trans women retain significant benefits from male puberty even if they subsequently lower testosterone levels.
This position was also taken by the five British Sportraits in September. They argued that there was no magic solution that would even out the inclusion of trans women in women’s sport while guaranteeing fairness and safety in competition – and for the first time told sports across the UK that they had to choose what their priority was.