The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has handed down its new guidelines for trans and intersex athletes in competition.
As well as the challenges facing trans athletes, intersex athletes have also been excluded from competition based on their hormone levels, such as runner Caster Semenya, who governing bodies have ruled cannot compete unless she alters her physiology through surgery or medication.
The new IOC framework requires evidence proving whether individuals have a performance advantage rather than focusing on testosterone levels, ABC News has reported.
It decrees that no athlete should be excluded based on “unverified, alleged, or perceived unfair competitive advantage due to their sex variations, physical appearance, and/or transgender status”.
The updated guidelines remove the previous demands for “medically unnecessary” treatments for trans and intersex competitors.
The six-page document is not legally binding but provides a framework for the governing bodies of individual sports.
Its principles include non-discrimination, fairness, evidence-based decision-making, and protecting the privacy of athletes.
The IOC said that “athletes should be allowed to compete, but unfair advantage needs to be regulated”.
It acknowledged that previously applied criteria for diverse athletes have “sometimes resulted in severe harm”, and it has warned against the future use of “invasive medical examinations”.
Some trans and intersex athletes are still expected to be deemed ineligible to compete, with safety a primary consideration for contact sports.
“We have not found the solution to this big question,” said IOC spokesperson Christian Klaue.
“Clearly, this is a topic that will be with us for a long time.”
The IOC said that it will fund research into elite performance by trans and intersex athletes.
Following next year’s Beijing Winter Games, the IOC aims to launch an online workshop program involving sporting bodies and athlete representatives.