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Trans Athlete Participation in Olympic Games

The Olympic Games are held after every four years with different host countries taking up the mantle for different periods. Different teams and personalities from different parts of the world are provided an opportunity to showcase their talent and uniqueness whereby the stage is perfectly set for not only fair but also equal competition under what can be termed perfect possible circumstances. One should note that the first Olympiad of the modern period was started in Athens, Greece in 1896 (Canton 626). The subsequent Olympic Games which have run for over one century are subject to a strict evaluation and moderation from the International Olympic Committee whose term of operation falls on the set constitution. For example, the choice of holding the Olympic Games tournament in terms of the city falls on the committee’s decision as opposed to anyone else (Canton 627). However, the mayor or any other chief authority is expected to bid or send a solid request to the International Olympic Committee whereby they are expected to prove all the requirements such as safety, housing, and the general organization of the games are expected to reach set expectation of the committee (Jones 7). In the following discussion, a legal issue surrounding the regulation of the Olympic Games as far as trans athletes will be carefully evaluated whereby I believe they are supposed to be accorded human dignity and treated equally.

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Since the adoption of the Olympic Agenda 2020, a lot of balanced yet beneficial tools have been developed for the sole purpose of ensuring all the sporting activities are credible and integrity is part of it. For example, the Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions was firstly approved by the Olympic committee executive board in December 2015-exactly six years ago. The Olympic Movement Code PMC was first implemented during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio (Canton 628). It aims at offering different types of sporting activities with reliable yet harmonized rules and regulations that are in line with provisions set aside by the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions to ensure no risk of manipulation on the side of competitors (Thompson). At the same time, the OM Code PMC highlights the violation as well as the required standards for disciplinary actions.

One of the main issues that have been subjected to the available legal mechanism is the quest for the participation of transgender in the Olympic Games. While everyone agrees that sporting activities are more of a unifying and social factor, with the increasing capitalism and freedom, everything can be tested especially as far as a legal medium are concerned. For example, a non-transgender person could argue that transgender is more advantaged due to the nature of their bodies and specifically the additional hormones that they have (The Washington Post). In this sense, the challenge or the legal question is whether transgender has a competitive advantage as far as participating in Olympic games is concerned or not. Specifically, those who believe that the Olympic Games should be regulated consider that participating and competing with transgender is not fair. According to the Washington Post “, every athlete has a right to practice sport without discrimination in a way that respects their health, safety, and dignity.”

After a long time of contention, legal battle, and consideration alongside evaluation by the International Olympic Committee, last month it was decided that transgender athletes will longer be required to undergo any form of medical procedures as part of hormone treatment to compete with their counterparts in various tournaments (Morris & Van Raalte 124-6). The Committee was across the board applauded for this decision and in specific the LGBTI advocate termed the move as a progressive one; however, the most important thing was implementation (Bekker). At the end of it all, it is expected that the transgender athletes will feel valued and appreciated considering that the nature of their body is not something that they have artificially done to their advantage but it is just natural circumstances. According to Reuters, “sex testing and “invasive physical examinations” used to verify an athlete’s gender were “disrespectful” and “potentially harmful”.

The International Olympic Committee ruling, which was a six-page document highlighted 10 principles that described among other issues the ground on the respect for international acceptable human rights that all sports competitions should adhere to. Furthermore, the outlined principles highlighted that transgender athletes will not undergo hormone level modification as part of the requirement to compete (The Guardian). This was part of human right observation whereby inclusion of women in the competition is more than welcome. Furthermore, human dignity, rights to bodily autonomy, and privacy has been highly considered as far as making such kind of decision are concerned. According to a report by the Human Right Watch, it was discovered that the World Athletics regulations in different ways support discrimination, coerced medical intervention, and surveillance, which are some of the common issues that the IOC tried to address.

Additionally, the new framework identifies an urgent need for everyone regardless of their gender or sex variations can participate in different types of sporting activities. All athletes even the transgender are supposed to be provided with a safe environment that does not by any means support harassment and recognized the need for full adherence to human rights and their identities without any exemption whatsoever (The Guardian). It was further ruled that the committee’s decision was not overall; however, everything was a result of extensive consultation with not only the athletes but also sports organizers, and experts in other fields of law, medicine, and human rights. Interestingly, all this came after three months that saw the first intersex and transgender participants in the history of the Olympic Games.

At the same time, last month’s regulation comes as a replacement for the IOC 2015 guidelines, which initially put a certain limit on different athletes’ testosterone levels such as transgender. Before then, and to be allowed to participate in the Olympic Games, they were expected to undergo treatments and specific genital surgery. In 2016, Chris Mosier was United States’ first national team trans athlete player in the sprint duathlon, and before that, he had challenged several IOC guidelines not only to the committee but even using the existing legal framework (Lavietes). No doubt that it is through the courage and initiative of people like Chris that some of these regulations were stripped off and everyone has an equal opportunity to participate and showcase their talent in modern-day competitions.

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As opposed to what has been a point of contention and debate for the longest time, the new IOC framework highlights that there is no specific advantage that athletes hold. Originally, the eligibility criteria that involves checking an athlete’s testosterone levels involved not only harmful but also abusive kinds of physical examination and sex testing (Lavietes). As expected, these not only affect the mental health of the athletes, especially the young ones but also create a rift among the participants with some being seen as more naturally advantaged than others, something that has been confirmed by a court of public opinion. According to the Guardian, “World Athletics has told the Guardian it has no plans to change its rules, which require athletes with a DSD to lower their testosterone to under five n/mol to compete in distances of between 400m and a mile.”

During this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Canadian soccer gold medalist Quinn, who was one of the first openly transgender in the competition termed the new regulation as not only a milestone but also groundbreaking (Reuters). Quinn added that often, the sports policy does not reflect the lives of marginalized athletes, specifically, transgender athletes.

In my position, I wholeheartedly support the regulation and framework that strikes off the unnecessary yet uncomfortable requirement for trans athlete to undergo testosterone tests. I believe that they are not advantaged as it has been the idea out there and their body state needs respect and value more than anything else (The Guardian). Obviously, in any kind of competition people will look for unreasonable and crooked ways of calling for fairness and in this sense, an individual natural state of the body does not need such audit and scrutiny, especially publicly. I always ask myself during the relay run, and any other for that case, we always see people who short and tall participating, and nothing wrong with that but why cases of trans athletes are always in limelight and under unnecessary scrutiny? Unless someone has undergone an artificial surgery meaning that there is some introduction of “advantage” in different forms, then those that have been born naturally in the form they find are supposed to be respected. In other words, everyone is a human being and at least dignity should be practiced.

Another reason why I support these laws and regulations is that it gives a precedent for some American states that restricts transgender students from participating in some school sports. It offers a view that the majority of anti-LGBTQ laws in the United States need a complete objection meaning that the athletes and students should like their counterparts allowed to take part in all games have fun, grow, and benefit from a supportive community sports (Archibald 246). Confirmed reports from the Movement Advancement Project confirmed that at least ten United States laws have so far enacted a law that prevents trans students’ from taking part in school sports. Furthermore, 21 states have considered related bills during this year (Morris & Van Raalte, 121-4). Thinking of it, one is only left wondering what kind of world we are living in where the biological state of humans acts as a natural disadvantage.

In conclusion, the International Olympic Committee is responsible for organizing and developing rules and regulations for the competition during different periods. Olympic Games have been held for more than a century, and yet, it is only these years that trans athletes have been allowed to take participate. For a long time, trans athletes have been discriminated against and disadvantaged meaning that they have been all-time subjected to unnecessary testosterone tests, which is a human right violation. As part of the regulation, last month, the committee called off such practices meaning that all trans athletes or not have an equal opportunity to participate in the Olympic games.

Works Cited

Archibald, Catherine Jean. “Transgender and Intersex Sports Rights.” Va. J. Soc. Pol’y & L. 26 (2019): 246.

Bekker, Sheree. “A Win for Transgender Athletes and Athletes with Sex Variations: the Olympics Shifts Away from Testosterone Tests and Toward Human Rights.” The Conversation, 2021, Web.

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Canton, Helen. “International Olympic Committee—IOC.” The Europa Directory of International Organizations 2021. Routledge, 2021. 626-628.

Jones, Jeri L. “International Olympic Committee Rule 40: Reasonable Protection for the IOC or Unfair Restriction to the Athletes?.” Atlantic Marketing Journal 8.1 (2019): 7.

The Guardian. “Trans Women Should Not Have to Reduce Testosterone, Say New IOC Guidelines.” The Guardian, 2021, Web.

Lavietes, Matt. “International Olympic Committee Issues New Guidelines on Transgender Athletes.” NBC News, 2021, Web.

Morris, J. F., & Van Raalte, J. L. (2016). Transgender and gender nonconforming athletes: Creating safe spaces for all. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 7(2), 121-132.

Reuters. “IOC Introduces New Framework for Transgender Athletes.” Reuters, 2021, Web.

Thompson, Becky. “International Olympic Committee Announces New Framework on Transgender Athletes.” CNN, 2021, Web.

The Washington Post. “IOC no longer will determine transgender athlete eligibility by testosterone levels.” The Washington Post, 2021, Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, October 1). Trans Athlete Participation in Olympic Games. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/trans-athlete-participation-in-olympic-games/

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