Since each sport must interpret and apply the rules, it is uncertain how the IOC’s stance will affect the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. Transgender guidelines may very well ‘destroy’ women’s sports, according to female olympians.
The “inclusion” of transgender athletes is emphasized by new Olympic rules, which only reject them if “an unfair and disproportionate advantage” is proven, as determined by officials in each discipline.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) states in its position paper from December 16 that “athletes should be allowed to compete in the category that best aligns with their self-determined gender identity.”
The statement, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, is the most recent development in a long line of laws affecting female athletes.
The IOC sets the tone for sports in local organizations, secondary schools, and universities all around the world, thus the ramifications might be extensive.
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The IOC attempted to further clarify the contentious transgender-related principles it announced in November 2021 with the most recent update. There was a backlash after that document said that there should be “no presumption of advantage” for male-to-female competitors.
The IOC seems to have exacerbated misunderstanding and discontent among some well-known female athletes rather than clearing things up.
‘Total Disregard’ For Women
Ex-Olympians worry that the IOC may be contributing to the decline and eventual demise of women’s sports by making it easier for biological males to compete in women’s divisions. Less girls and women are likely to join when up against biologically superior opponents, drying up the talent pool.
British marathoner Mara Yamauchi, a two-time Olympian, responded to the IOC’s most recent statement on Twitter. She wrote: “Its total disregard for women and girls made me so angry I was shaking.”
Yamauchi interpreted the IOC update as follows: “We will destroy your sports, Ladies, but you are so totally worthless we won’t bother asking your views.”
The International Olympic Committee, on the other hand, stated that the guidelines were developed with consultation from “all athletes, including trans athletes and athletes with sex variations, as well as human rights, legal, scientific and medical experts.”
Transgender activists praised the IOC for their transgender-inclusive policy, and other Twitter users repeated the phrase: “All kids deserve to have access to sport.”
No Presumption of Advantage
The IOC standards issued last year sparked debate, mostly due to the “no-presumption-of-advantage” remark for male-to-female transgender athletes.
According to the guidelines, no athlete should be barred from competing because of “an unverified, alleged or perceived unfair competitive advantage” due to transgender status or physical appearance. “Sex variations,” which appear to allude to genetic or physiological differences, should not be considered either.
Ex-Olympians objected, citing multiple well-recognized studies demonstrating that, as compared to biological females, biological males had higher speed, strength, and stamina—just a few of the characteristics that can improve sports performance.
In 2017, Israeli researchers reported discovering over 3,500 genetically programmed differences between males and females.
Some argue that they do not require a research to detect visible performance differences between males and females in everyday life.
As a result, there has been a lot of public discussion over biological males who identify as transgender and compete in women’s sports.
These athletes, such as American swimmer Lia Thomas, British cyclist Emily Bridges, and New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, have recently attracted notice from throughout the world. These athletes were hailed as pioneers by some. Some people yelled foul.
In its latest statement, the IOC admits that for some transgender athletes, limitations or exclusion may be warranted. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is allowing each sport’s governing body to create its own standards, noting that the effects of biological variances may fluctuate from one sport to another.
According to the International Olympic Committee, those officials should collaborate with specialists “in identifying the metrics and data that may be relevant to defining fair and proportionate advantage in competition.”
Since the beginning of the modern Olympic era in 1896, Olympic officials have recognized sex differences among athletes.
The first female athletes participated in the Olympic Games in Paris, France in 1900. Coincidentally, that is the same location where the 2024 Summer Olympics will be hosted, with the new transgender rules in effect, potentially harming numerous female sports, according to critics.
People have been complaining about males perhaps disguising as ladies in Olympic competitions since at least the 1930s. As a result, sex-related testing for female Olympic competitors became necessary in 1968.
The chromosome-based tests were criticized for being demeaning and occasionally erroneous. Furthermore, several critics saw them as detrimental to women’s sports.
“Testing evolved into a tool to identify—and eliminate—athletes the IOC deemed too strong, too fast, or too successful,” according to a synopsis of author Lindsay Parks Pieper’s 2016 book.
The IOC opted to stop requiring female athletes to submit to sex tests in 1999. Some people believed that anti-doping laws, which resulted in blood or urine tests for illegal “performance-enhancing drugs,” would make it less likely for an athlete to pass for a different gender.
However, the IOC decided that transsexuals should be permitted to participate in female sports two years after undergoing sex-reassignment surgery beginning with the 2004 Olympics.
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These athletes also required female hormone therapy for a long enough period of time to minimize “gender-related advantages,” according to the IOC at the time. Transgender athletes will be subjected to “a confidential, case-by-case evaluation.”
Testosterone Hotly Debated
Female athletes with unclear biological sex had to submit to testosterone tests in order to compete in the 2012 Olympics. A requirement that some people felt was unjust to athletes with high naturally occurring testosterone levels resulted in the athletes being disqualified if their levels of that masculinizing hormone surpassed a particular level.
Four years later, the IOC approved another modification that would affect female athletes: male-to-female competitors would no longer require reassignment surgery. Limits on testosterone are still in effect.
The issue is not as clear-cut now.
In some sports, testosterone levels “may be an important factor,” according to the new IOC guideline. But according to the IOC, testosterone tests alone should not be used to determine whether to disqualify or limit an athlete.
The IOC notes that certain biological males have achieved elite athletic status despite testosterone levels that were so low that they were regarded as being in the “normal” range for biological females in the “frequently asked questions” section of its website.
Therefore, “athletic performance varies independently of an individual athlete’s testosterone levels,” the IOC said. “There is thus no scientific consensus on how testosterone levels can be used across sports to define unfair and disproportionate advantage.”
Female Rights Ignored?
A British sports policy expert named Cathy Devine tweeted about the most recent development: “The IOC has been forced into making some concessions: damage limitation.”
But Devine wrote, “IOC is still ignoring the human rights of female athletes.”
She added: “Female categories should be for females only. This upholds the international human rights framework which protects equality and non-discrimination against females on the basis of sex (means as compared with males).”
According to the Olympic Charter, playing sports is a basic human right.
The IOC asserts that despite these challenges, transgender athletes frequently experience “harassment, violence, and even sexual assault,” which may explain why so few transgender persons participate in sports at all levels.
In light of this, the IOC suggests that “inclusion” be given top priority in youth and community-level sports. The IOC recommended that transgender athletes only be restricted or excluded from elite-level contests.
Although the IOC’s statement is written in difficult-to-understand jargon, Inga Thompson, a cyclist who competed for the United States in three Olympics, stated the following is her best reading of it: “They are acknowledging that women need a sex-separated category, and at the same time, they’re very much advocating for the inclusion of a transgender athlete into the women’s category.”
Thompson made the statement during a Fox News interview on December 19.
“I’m discouraged,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Thompson finds it particularly worrisome that the IOC’s position paper advocates for incorporating transgender athletes into community-level sports while avoiding limits at the non-elite level.
Several studies, she claims, reveal that “young women, if not given a sex-separated sport, get discouraged” while competing against competitors who have an edge because they are biologically male. Girls and women “end up walking away from the sport,” she says.
There is also the issue of safety. It is not surprising that biological females will feel intimidated and quit, according to Thompson, because guys who identify as transgender women have sometimes overpowered and seriously wounded female athletes.
She views the IOC’s policy as “suppressing all of the development of our next generation” because of this. The future of women’s sports is in jeopardy as a result, according to Thompson.
According to Thompson, many sports federations adopt the IOC’s policies. However, she advises parents: “You can advocate at your school level, at the state level, to try to keep fairness for these young girls.”
The new rules were deemed “beyond unfair” by Thompson in a separate interview with the NewsNation network.
“They have sold out women in favor of having more opportunities for more males,” she said.
Thompson pointed out that the Olympics offer specific categories for competitors with physical or mental disability, in addition to those based on age, gender, and weight. However, the IOC recommends placing transgender athletes in the women’s category “at the exclusion of women,” according to Thompson.
“If you really want to have true inclusion, you need to start another category” for transgender athletes, she said.
Since each sport must interpret and apply the rules, it is uncertain how the IOC’s stance will affect the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.
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