The International Olympic Committee is overhauling its rules for transgender competitors after the Tokyo Olympics, saying the current regulations are outdated.
The IOC approved rules in 2015 allowing transgender athletes to compete in the Olympics against competitors of their gender identity as long as the transgender athlete met certain qualifications. For transgender women — biological males — the athlete’s testosterone level must measure below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least a year prior to competing.
The IOC now says the rule is outdated and needs revision, according to Yahoo Sports. The announcement comes after Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old transgender female, became the first openly transgender person to compete in the Olympics on Monday. Hubbard, the oldest contestant in women’s weightlifting, failed to score on three attempts and was knocked out of competition.
“But in recent years, many medical experts and policymakers have come to the conclusion that those rules were no longer fully supported by science,” Yahoo Sports reported. “Experts who spoke with Yahoo Sports, some of whom have consulted with the IOC, identified two main shortcomings: That testosterone-related rules were too lenient, and that one set of guidelines should not apply to dozens of different sports.”
Two scientists consulting with the IOC say the 10 nanomole threshold is too high and should be cut by half. Experts also say the standard should be different depending on the sport the trans competitor is playing.
The new approach to crafting rules for transgender athletes is expected to be announced later this year. IOC head of public affairs Katie Mascagni said the research the IOC will be relying on must be properly “contextualized” before the announcement.
“The research needs to be more contextualized,” Mascagni said. “What might be true for rowing and this specific discipline — where potentially testosterone or other aspects come into play in order to justify the reasons there is a disproportionate advantage — might be totally irrelevant in another context.”
The IOC has no plans to back off transgender athlete participation in Olympic events. In July, IOC medical and science director Richard Budgett claimed that “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”
The new guidelines will be a “balance between safety, inclusion and fairness,” he said earlier this week. He went on to call concerns of transgender women in women’s sports “overstated” because a transgender woman had not reached the top level of competition until now.
“And the other important thing to remember is transgender women are women. So you’ll include all women, if you possibly can,” he reiterated.
After failing out of competition, Hubbard thanked the IOC for its inclusivity.
“[The IOC has] been extraordinarily supportive, and I think that they have reaffirmed the principles of the Olympics that sport is something that all people around the world can do, that it is inclusive and successful,” Hubbard said.
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