The International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled that transgender athletes may compete in the Olympics without undergoing sex reassignment surgery.
Under previous guidelines, approved in 2003, athletes who were transitioning would have to undergo sex reassignment surgery and at least two years of hormone therapy. With these new guidelines, surgery will no longer be required, and female-to-male transgender athletes can compete without restriction. However, male-to-female transgender athletes still have to demonstrate that their testosterone level is below a certain point for a year before they are eligible for competition.
According to The Associated Press, former IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said the policy changes were driven by social and political attitudes on transgender issues.
“It has become much more of a social issue than in the past,” Ljungqvist told Associated Press. “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.”
Previously, the IOC conducted gender verification tests at the Olympics, but those screenings were abolished before the 2000 Sydney Games. They were later deemed unscientific and unethical, according to the Guardian.
“It is necessary to ensure, insofar as possible, that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition,” the IOC concluded and reported in a document posted its website.
“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,” it added.
While the guidelines are designed as mere recommendations, they will still be applied to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this August.
“I don’t think many federations have rules on defining eligibility of transgender individuals,” said Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC medical director.
“This should give them the confidence and stimulus to put these rules in place.”
Most importantly, the guidelines recommend the Olympics put rules ‘in place for the protection of women in sport and the promotion of the principles of fair competition,’ according to Daily Mail.
“To avoid discrimination, if not eligible for female competition the athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition,” the guidelines state.