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IOC pushes back decision on transgender athletes due to conflicting opinions

The IOC plans to move away from its current approach to protect and promote intersex and transgender athletes

The International Olympic Committee has delayed its decision on addressing the fairness and inclusion of women’s sports at the Olympic Games, and the protection of transgender athletes during competition. The IOC wanted to reach a decision before the 2022 Winter Games, but it has now been delayed due to conflicting opinions.

2021 Prefontaine Classic: Letsenbet Gidey Leads the 2 Mile ahead of Hellen Obiri and Francine Niyonsaba Photo: Pat Holleran/Shannon Digital Imaging

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The news was revealed by the IOC’s Science and Medical Director, Dr. Richard Budgett, who wants to prioritize inclusion for international sports federations. The current guideline from 2015 states that transgender women can compete in the women’s category if they reduce their testosterone levels to below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before competing. 

However, for the IOC to protect the human rights of an intersex or transgender athlete during competition, the policy needs to shift. In Tokyo 2020, DSD athlete Christine Mboma and Francine Niyonsaba had to compete outside of their middle-distance events due to high testosterone regulations, and 2016 800m gold medallist Caster Semenya (also a DSD athlete) failed to qualify for the Games outside of her discipline.

Caster Semenya edging out Francine Niyonsaba in the 800m final at the 2017 World Championships

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The plan is to move away from the current approach to protect and promote intersex and transgender athletes in competitions. The idea is to allow trans women to compete in the women’s category regardless of whether they have had gender reassignment surgery, as long as they can keep their testosterone levels low.

When the IOC and World Athletics make a decision, international federations will have to follow suit to determine specific rules for each sport.