When it comes to forward thinking and drastic reform measures in an effort to progress with an ever-changing society, the International Olympic Committee is moving at light speed.
On Sunday, the IOC told the Associated Press that transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in the Olympics and other international events without undergoing sex reassignment surgery, according to new guidelines implemented that they have implemented.
Former IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist was among the braintrust who drafted the new guidelines and says the consensus was influenced by social and political changes in the world.
The guidelines are not written in stone. According to IOC Medical Director Dr. Richard Budgett, they are designed as recommendations for international sports federations and other bodies to follow, starting with this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I don’t think many federations have rules on defining eligibility of transgender individuals," Budgett said in a telephone interview with The Daily News. “This should give them the confidence and stimulus to put these rules in place.”
The guidelines, first reported by Outsports.com, were ratified after a meeting of Olympic officials and medical experts in November in Switzerland. While, the guidelines give transgender athletes a more secure legislative platform to stand on and eases the feeling of non-acceptance, it is not without its double standards.
Under the previous IOC guidelines from 2003, athletes who transitioned from male to female or vice-versa were required to have reassignment surgery followed by at least two years of hormone therapy in order to be eligible. This made sense, considering the fact that there are proven differences in the anatomy, strength and bone composition of male and female athletes.
Now, surgery will no longer be required, with female to male transgender athletes. However, male-to-female transgender athletes will need to demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below a specific cutoff point for at least one full year prior to competing.
The IOC stated on its website: “To require surgical anatomical changes as a precondition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights.”
A ruling such as this -- as low key as it has been as a media story -- could change the Olympic strategy of certain countries who notoriously cut corners to win in international competitions. As much as it is intended to preserve fair and equal competition, it may also open up a can of worms that is crawling with people who may attempt to exploit it.