The International Olympic Committee officials said the guidelines governing the participation of transgender women in Olympic sports are outdated and they plan to announce a new policy after the Tokyo Games.
The statement came as Laurel Hubbard — the New Zealand weightlifter set to compete in the Tokyo Olympics as the first transgender athlete in the history of the games after she met several eligibility requirements — prepared to compete on Monday.
Hubbard lifts in the 87+kg division is allowed to compete alongside women under guidelines established in 2015 by the IOC and adopted by the International Weightlifting Federation, Yahoo Sports reports.
Many medical experts and policymakers have come to the conclusion that those rules were no longer fully supported by science in recent years, and experts who spoke with Yahoo Sports 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.
The outlet reports that the current guidelines require a transgender woman to undergo hormone therapy and suppress her testosterone “below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months prior to her first competition.”
But two scientists who’ve consulted with the IOC said that, based on recent evidence, they believed the threshold to be too high and was set “based on old data, and not on the most sophisticated ways of measuring testosterone,” said Myron Genel, a Yale endocrinologist who has studied the topic and consulted with the IOC for two decades, per Yahoo Sports.
Other experts emphasized that a one-size-fits-all policy on trans inclusion fails to consider that the advantages retained by women who’ve gone through male puberty are far more impactful in some sports.
“The difference between male and female performance varies from sport to sport,” Genel said, per Yahoo Sports. “Even within a sport, like in track and field, the male to female advantage may be anywhere from 5 to 12, 13%, depending upon the activity.”
The IOC’s new approach will be announced later this year, but officials stressed the need for more science. Yahoo Sports reports that to date, most, if not all relevant studies on retained advantages in transwomen have not specifically studied athletes, just transwomen in general.