Transgender Athlete May Make Historic Appearance In 2016 Summer Olympics Due To New Guidelines

Transgender athletes will be able to participate in the Olympics without having gender reassignment surgery, according to reports from Outsports. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) updated the guidelines related to transgender athletes in November to more closely reflect standard policy already adopted by other regulatory sports organizations including the NCAA. The new transgender guidelines are expected to be adopted in time for the 2016 Summer Olympic games. The updated language specifically says,

“To require surgical anatomical changes as a pre-condition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights. It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition.”

Prior to the updated guidelines, the Stockholm Consensus adopted in 2004 required transgender athletes to change their gender both physically and legally in order to compete in the Olympic games. In addition, transgender female athletes had to undergo two years of post-surgery hormone replacement therapy prior to competing. This requirement was probably intended to prevent transgender female athletes with testicles, and thus higher testosterone levels, from competing in women’s Olympic games. The guideline was seen as exclusive and without basis due to the expense of gender reassignment surgery and the lack of a connection between genitalia and athletic performance. The higher levels of testosterone associated with testicles can be blocked through surgery.

Think Progress reports that American triathlete and duathlete Chris Mosier’s challenge to the guideline prompted its re-examination and eventual revision. Mosier is a trans man and knew that, because he has not had reassignment surgery, he would not be able to compete despite the fact that he qualified for the World Championships last June. The rewritten guideline should allow him to compete as it allows trans men to compete without restriction.

Transgender athletes who have transitioned from male to female are subject to more guidelines, because of the concern about testosterone levels. They must have been a legally declared female for at least four years. Testosterone levels must remain below a maximum of 10 nmol/L for the 12 months prior to competition and remain at that level throughout the competition. And last, trans-woman athletes are subject to random testing. If they fail such testing, they will be suspended from female competition for 12 months. They may compete in male competitions during their suspension if they so wish.

Providence Portland Medical Center’s chief medical physicist of radiation oncology Joanna Harper had this to say about the new guidelines for transgender athletes.

“The new IOC transgender guidelines fix almost all of the deficiencies with the old rules. Hopefully, organizations such as the ITA will quickly adapt to the new IOC guidelines and all of the outdated trans policies will get replaced soon…

“The waiting period for trans women goes from two years after surgery to one year after the start of HRT. This matches up with the NCAA rules and is as good as anything. The waiting period was perhaps the most contentious item among our group and one year is a reasonable compromise.”

The 2016 Summer Olympics will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Madrid, Toykyo, and Chicago were also considered. These Olympic games will be historic because they will mark the first Olympics held in South America and as well as the first time athletes from Kosovo and South Sudan will compete in the Summer Olympics. If the new guidelines regarding transgender athletes are approved before the games, Chris Mosier will make history by becoming the first transgender athlete to qualify for Olympic games.

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