- The IOC has released new guidance for the inclusion and support of trans athletes in sports.
- The rules are non-binding and act as recommendations to be considered when sporting bodies select their athletes.
- Alana Smith, an Olympic skateboarder, tells Insider there is still work to be done to make inclusion a reality.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has changed its guidelines for the participation of trans athletes.
The policy marks a step away from the previous model of gender testing and forced hormone changes.
It has been praised by human rights organizations for being more inclusive of the trans and non-binary community.
The new set of rules — called the IOC framework on fairness, inclusion, and non-discrimination based on gender identity and sex variations — was announced on the IOC website this week.
The guidance acts as a set of non-binding recommendations for each sporting body to consider when creating their eligibility criteria and participation rules for athletes.
- Transgender women should not have to reduce their testosterone levels to compete in the women's sports category.
- Athletes should be allowed to compete in a team that "best aligns with their self-determined gender identity," as long as they meet certain criteria.
- No athlete should be barred from competing due to an assumed advantage. On that note, anyone who is barred from competing should be done so on an evidence-based approach. This decision can also be appealed.
- All athletes have a right to privacy in regards to their medical information being made public.
The guidance states that "everyone, regardless of their gender identity, expression, and/or sex variations, should be able to participate in sport safely and without prejudice."
Commenting on the new set of rules, IOC head of human rights Magali Martowicz said, "We really want to make sure that athletes are not pressured or coerced into making a harmful decision about their bodies," Reuters report.
The new regulations have been praised by Human Rights Watch. Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that they promote "inclusion in sports" and that they "represent a turning point for the fundamental rights of athletes and a boost for women's inclusion in sports worldwide."
She added that the rules act by "foregrounding the rights to bodily autonomy, health, and privacy, the IOC has taken a significant step toward protecting the dignity of all women athletes."
The new rulebook also specifically advocates for the well-being of athletes.
During the Tokyo 2020 games, Team New Zealand, which included trans-Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, received a "groundswell" of negative comments concerning Hubbard and her gender identity.
What do trans athletes think of the new rules?
The six-page document outlines the new rules but sets out that they should act as guidance for individual sporting bodies in aiding them to make final decisions.
US Olympic Skateboarder Alana Smith, who competed in the women's street skateboarding event at the 2020 Summer Olympics, identifies as non-binary. They don't think the new IOC framework is good enough — they think it "sucks."
"I feel like there's probably going to be a few organizations that are going to make the executive decision not to allow trans athletes," they told Insider.
However, Smith noted that the move away from trans athletes having a presumed advantage over their cisgender (a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex counterparts) is a good thing.
"It's nice that they're trying to sway away from the fact that there's an advantage for some people because there isn't. If you work hard enough, you obviously earn your right in whatever sport that you're in.
"If you're competing at an Olympic level, to hear that you have an advantage shouldn't be an experience because of how hard you have worked your asses off to get to that point.
"You shouldn't really take anything away from somebody else because they were born in a body that they weren't supposed to be in."
The athlete added that having to confine themselves to a specific gender category for the Olympics severely impacted their mental health.
Smith said that they would "love" to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics but fears it will still be a "highly gendered thing."