Transgender athletes

Since 2004, transgender athletes post gender reassignment surgery have been permitted to participate in elite sport in the gender category they identify with as long as they can declare legal recognition of their gender.

In 2016, the IOC recommended that gender reassignment surgery is no longer necessary, and a female-to-male transgender athlete can compete in a men’s event without restriction.

Male to female transgender athletes can also compete without gender reassignment surgery however they must be able to prove that their testosterone levels are below a certain level for 12 months before their first competition in a women’s event to avoid unfair advantage. 

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in May 2019 that if female runners had significantly higher testosterone levels than normal, they needed to take medication to bring down the levels of the male sex hormone should they wish to compete.

This ruling was challenged by Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic middle-distance runner who won an interim ruling in the Swiss Supreme Court after she was ordered to take medication or complete gender reassignment surgery if she wished to continue competing.

It’s perceived that male to female transgender athletes may have an unfair advantage and that hormone levels and gender checking are necessary for equal competition in sporting events.

On the other hand, a US-based group Athlete Ally is advocating for transgender individuals to be included. They believe that enforced medical interventions are a violation of human rights and demeaning to the athletes.

If a transgender athlete identifies as a female should they be forced to go through gender reassignment surgery or given medication to continue competing, or is this demeaning and a violation of their basic human rights?