These New Guidelines Make it Easier for Transgender Athletes to Compete in the Olympics

By Kenrya Rankin Jan 25, 2016

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has revamped its competition guidelines to reduce the restrictions that limit transgender athletes’ participation in the Olympic games. According to The Associated Press, the changes are designed to guide rulemaking for international sports federations, which are responsible for making the final decisions on which athletes will be eligible to compete in Rio de Janeiro this summer. 

“I don’t think many federations have rules on defining eligibility of transgender individuals,” IOC medical director Dr. Richard Budgett told AP. “This should give them the confidence and stimulus to put these rules in place.”

The guidelines are posted on the IOC’s website under the header “IOC Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism.” The Switzerland-based organization’s post begins with guiding principles, which include the following passage:

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 worldwide. There are also, however, jurisdictions where autonomy of gender identity is not recognised by 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.


The new guidelines are as follows:

1. Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction.
2. 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 women’s competition).

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 female category. 

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. 

The update also specifies that transgender women who are prevented from competing as women can compete in the male competition “to avoid discrimination.” Previous guidelines, established in 2003, required athletes to undergo reassignment surgery and at least two years of hormone therapy before they could compete.

Sporting organizations are increasingly adopting policies government participation by transgender athletes. See for a comprehensive list