Olympic Committee eliminates medical “gender change” requirement for male athletes who want to compete in women’s sports
January 26, 2016
Results of last November’s “Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism” which decided changes to Olympic eligibility policies have been posted on the IOC website. And the winner is…. Men.
Under the previous guidelines, male athletes who wished to compete in women’s events were required to provide proof of legal gender change and evidence of surgical gonad removal followed by two years of estrogen treatments.The new guidelines do away with all of that. Under the new guidelines, any male can compete in women’s events with no legal gender change and no medical treatment whatsoever, on the basis of his declaration alone: he must declare that he believes himself to possess a “female” personality or mentality. The one caveat is that his testosterone levels must remain in the lower range of typical male levels (<10 nmol/L) for the duration of one year. Men with testosterone levels in the higher range may require medication to reduce those levels to the lower end of normal male averages. No transgender cross-sex hormonal treatment is required.
To put this ruling in context, here is a chart of normal male and female testosterone ranges from Web MD:
Normal Male Range : 9 – 38 nmol/L
Normal Female Range : 0.5 – 2.4 nmol/L
From the IOC website, the new guidelines in full [PDF] :
1) Transgender guidelines
- Since the 2003 Stockholm Consensus on Sex Reassignment in Sports,
there has been a growing recognition of the importance of autonomy of
gender identity in society, as reflected in the laws of many jurisdictions
- There are also, however, jurisdictions where autonomy of gender identity is
not recognised in law at all.
- It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not
excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition.
- The overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair
competition. Restrictions on participation are appropriate to the extent that
they are necessary and proportionate to the achievement of that objective.
- 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.
- Nothing in these guidelines is intended to undermine in any way the
requirement to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and the WADA
- These guidelines are a living document and will be subject to review in light
of any scientific or medical developments.
In this spirit, the IOC Consensus Meeting agreed the following guidelines to be
taken into account by sports organisations when determining eligibility to compete
in male and female competition:
- Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the
male category without restriction.
- Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the
female category under the following conditions:
2.1. The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The
declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum
of four years.
2.2. The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum
has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first
competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on
a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12
months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in
2.3. The athlete’s total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10
nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the
2.4. Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by testing. In the
event of non-compliance, the athlete’s eligibility for female competition
will be suspended for 12 months.
2) Hyperandrogenism in female athletes
In response to the interim award dated 24 July 2015 in Chand v AFI and IAAF
CAS 2014/A/3759, the IOC Consensus Meeting recommended:
- Rules should be in place for the protection of women in sport and the
promotion of the principles of fair competition.
- The IAAF, with support from other International Federations, National
Olympic Committees and other sports organisations, is encouraged to
revert to CAS with arguments and evidence to support the reinstatement of
its hyperandrogenism rules.
- To avoid discrimination, if not eligible for female competition the athlete
should be eligible to compete in male competition.
So… what does this mean?
For Male Athletes:
2.1 Males must state that they believe in a female mentality and must declare that they believe themselves to possess one. After making such a declaration males may not “detransition” or desist in their self-concept “for sporting purposes” for four years. Presumably that means they cannot revert to competing as males, but this is not clear (more below).
2.2 Males must have testosterone levels in the low normal range, or must medically lower their natural level to the low normal male range.
Males must maintain typical male hormones in the lower normal range for one year prior to competing in women’s events. After that they can compete in women’s events including contact sports (Boxing, etc.)
Males may be subjected to a confidential case-by-case evaluation requiring a longer period of maintaining low-normal male hormone levels if it is determined any advantage of their male physiology (larger heart pumping volume, greater lung capacity, larger and longer bones, more impact resistant cranial bone structure, increased type 2 skeletal muscle, smaller hips, concentrated upper body strength, lower fat reserves, etc, etc.) remains. No guidelines for performing this performance assessment is provided, and no limit of time for remediation is set.
2.3 Males must maintain their testosterone levels in the low normal male range throughout active competition in the women’s division.
2.4 Testing of male compliance to low range male levels may or may not be performed. If they are tested and a male competing in the female division is caught with testosterone in middle range or above, his eligibility to compete against women will be revoked for one year. It is unclear if he then becomes eligible via disqualification to return to men’s competition.
- “Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction.”
That’s it! That is the guideline. On the face of it, it appears that the men setting these policies, including those who “identify as” having a “female identity” (more on that later) fully recognize the physiologic disadvantage female athletes have competing in events designed to favor male anatomy and physiology. Female athleticism is so dismissive to the IOC and unworthy of consideration that IOC policy is: “Whatever”. Do whatever you want, ladies! Good luck with that! LOL.
Are female transgender athletes required to declare their “male identity”? Whatever. Are female athletes beholden to maintain that declaration for four years after making it, as males are? Whatever. The World Anti-Doping Code prohibits athletes in male sports from usage of synthetic androgens or androgen enhancers, http://list.wada-ama.org/list/s1-anabolic-agents/ and the IOC’s own new policy is prefaced by stating: “Nothing in these guidelines is intended to undermine in any way the requirement to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and the WADA International Standards”. How does this relate to females using these agents in male competition? Are these substances still restricted by the anti-doping standards that the IOC says their new rules shouldn’t be interpreted to undermine? Or not? Can female athletes competing as male ignore the World Anti-doping code in terms of testosterone? What about Human Growth Hormone, which some FTM athletes are certainly using to build muscle? Is that restricted? Who knows. “Whatever, gals”.
Obviously the IOC committee recognizes that any amount of doping won’t make elite female athletes competitive against elite males. Yet they claim to believe that testosterone levels in the low male range eliminate male competitive advantage in males against females, in events specifically designed for male physiology. (more on that later). Are all restrictions on doping unrestricted for female bodies in male sports? Because the IOC recognizes that sex-based physiology cannot be chemically altered?
Bullet point 1. “The IAAF, with support from other International Federations, National Olympic Committees and other sports organisations, is encouraged to revert to CAS with arguments and evidence to support the reinstatement of its hyperandrogenism rules.”
Last summer the Court of Arbitration in Sport ruled on the Dutee Chand lawsuit against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that chromosomally male intersex individuals with XY chromosomes who were assigned female at birth due to AIS (Androgen Insensitivity Condition), PAIS (Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) or 5-ARD (five alpha reductase deficiency) could continue to compete in women’s sports even if they had naturally occurring testosterone levels nearing or entering the male range, since their bodies were – at least partially- unable to process testosterone. This ruling overturned the former prohibition on female assigned at birth intersex athletes with naturally occurring testosterone above the lower male range (10 nmol/L) due to the fact that inability to absorb testosterone had caused them to develop along female norms.
The Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) ruled that XY individuals assigned female at birth due to failure to process testosterone will be able to compete in women’s sports for the next two years regardless of circulating testosterone levels. As part of the ruling the court called for input and data for or against this policy, which they will revisit in two years. [Full decision PDF].
The new IOC guidelines state that they will abide this ruling but they encourage and support “arguments and evidence” to reverse this ruling and limit intersex participation in women’s sports based on testosterone levels, whether those hormones are absorbed or not. Unlike the unambiguously male individuals who seek to transgender, no “confidential case by case” assessment is suggested by the IOC for genuinely intersex persons.
ESPN’s reporter Chris “Christina” Kahrl, a transgender activist, falsely characterized the recommendations for intersex athletes in his ESPN article where he states: “The new guidelines also contain recommendations that the Olympics act on the results of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand’s victory in Court of Arbitration for Sport in July. That decision allowed for female athletes who happen to have naturally elevated levels of testosterone.”
Clearly the IOC recommends a reversal of that ruling. Naughty, naughty misreporting, Kahrl.
Bullet point 2. “To avoid discrimination, if not eligible for female competition the athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition.”
Again, this is not clear. What comprises ineligibility during the two years of no upper limit on testosterone? It never says. Presumably this refers to the period after they get the Dutee Chand ruling overturned. Otherwise, what are the parameters for eligibility/ineligibility? And if (whatever these unspoken parameters may be) are crossed, will there be a one-year penalty, as for male athletes? It appears not. Since this is under the new rules for intersex athletes it appears at first glance to allow XY individuals assigned female at birth due to largely female typical physiology to compete in unambiguously male events. Does this allow an exemption from the World Anti-Doping Code as the female-to-male ruling may or may not do? Can an intersex athlete assigned female at birth who has female range testosterone levels jack them up medically for competition? What about if competing against males? Or does that require an identity declaration, and if so, must it be maintained for four years? No idea.
What’s also missing from these guidelines is the same thing that’s always been missing: a ruling on female exclusion from male events, some of which favor female physiology, like the long-jump in skiing. Lindsey Van set the world’s record in 2010 for both females and males but women were not allowed to compete in the event. They still aren’t.
Must female athletes like her falsely proclaim a belief in “male personality” and assert that they possess one in order to compete? Can intersex athletes compete? What about women who want to compete in Bruce Jenner’s male-only decathalon event? Surely if Bruce is a woman that must be a coed event? But no.
Outsport.com cites Joanna (John) Harper, a Portland radiology tech with a Master’s Degree, as the driving force behind the new guidelines. Harper is a marathon runner who competes against women since he began to undergo transgender cross-sex hormone treatments a decade ago. He is a pro-transgender and anti-intersex activist who spoke out in 2014 against the then-current (10 nmol/L) testosterone allowance for assigned-female-at-birth intersex athletes ( the one since overturned by the Dutee Chand lawsuit) , because he felt it was too high, and unfair for female athletes:
“In order to fully understand this new ruling, it is necessary to look at some numbers. The normal T range for men is 10-35 nmol/L (nanomole per liter), with an average in the low twenties, and for women it is 0.35-2.0 nmol/L, with an average of about 1.5. The IAAF chose to set the maximum level for women at the nominal male minimum of 10 nmol/L.
This decision has serious implications for all female athletes. Higher T is an advantage and no typical female will get anywhere close to 10 nmol/L without doping. Thus, the agency has set a bar for the dopers, and they will aim for it.”
Now that the Court of Arbitration in Sport has ruled that intersex athletes like Dutee Chand may compete with their naturally occurring testosterone levels for the next two years while the CAS gathers more data, Harper appears to have changed his tune. Now he apparently advocates for males to maintain testosterone <10 (although he thought the time period of one year was too long), for women to maintain typical unaltered testosterone levels (subject to anti-doping regulation), and he calls for a return to the (recently overturned) <10 limit on intersex athletes.Harper has explained his personal winning streak as a “women’s” runner thusly:
He has described his own struggles against the temptation to “naturally dope” by skipping regular doses of his testosterone inhibitors:
“On the ride home it occurred to me that I had a tough choice in front of me soon. Since my body still produces testosterone, I take a drug called spironolactone so that my body will not absorb any testosterone. However, I knew that testosterone would greatly help my aching legs recover from the beating they had just taken. One of my proudest moments of the day came later when I took my “spiro”.”Meanwhile, Chris “Kristen” Worley, a 49-year-old male cyclist who “identifies as” female, who complained when he failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics due to failing to participate in any of the qualifying events, filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario last month charging that any IOC requirement for males who compete in women’s sports to reduce their testosterone to any lower levels at all is a human rights violation against men who identify as transgender.