Transgender athletes are able to compete in The Olympics without sexual reassignment surgery, as of Monday.
The International Olympic Committee officially updated its guidelines for trans athletes, stating, “It is necessary … that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition.”
The statement goes on to acknowledge why the changes occurred, noting that fair competition can be preserved without requiring any of its participating athletes to undergo surgery for anatomical changes. It also mentioned the human rights issues the old guidelines presented.
The changes are a result of a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In 2015 the court vacated the International Association of Athletics Federation’s regulations regarding the essential ban on athletes with hyperandrogenism. Ultimately, the court believed the association provided insufficient scientific evidence about the relationship between “enhanced testosterone levels and improved athletic performance in hyperandrogenic athletes.”
The new rules negate the previous regulations that transgender athletes must undergo both sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy to compete in the international games. However, the IOC’s update to gender-specific guidelines remain somewhat questionable.
At present “Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction,” according to the IOC. Trans women athlete eligibility, on the other hand, is subject to self-identification stipulations and hormone level testing.
Once an athlete identify as female, that declaration can’t be changed for a minimum of four years. In addition, a trans female athlete “must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition.” Those levels must remain below 10 nmol/L during their entire eligibilty period and they may be tested regularly to determine testosterone levels.
The main issue with the fine print is its implication that trans woman athletes will be naturally stronger and more athletically inclined than women assigned female at birth, whereas trans male athletes will, on the flip side, naturally not be.
As for trans women athletes with hyperandrogenism, they will not qualify for female competition, but will not be banned from competing in The Olympics male competitions.