New IOC framework for inclusion of trans and intersex athletes

20th November 2021

The much awaited IOC framework has been released. 

LEAP Sports welcomes the new International Olympic Committee (IOC) framework on fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex variations, published Tuesday 16 November 2021.

The new framework is informed by a human rights approach to the practice of sport which is in line with the Olympic Charter, and it centres inclusion and non-discrimination as clear and guiding principles.

In releasing a framework rather than a set of eligibility criteria, the IOC leaves it to International Federations to chart their own course and to establish their own criteria for their sport. It remains to be seen whether this will lead to clarity or confusion — and of course we face the prospect of significant inconsistencies from sport to sport. It also seems a stretch of belief that World Rugby or World Athletics will change course on the back of the new Framework. Nevertheless, the IOC makes it clear the way in which it expects Federations to approach this issue, which gives us cause for confidence and optimism.

“Where eligibility criteria must be set in order to regulate the participation in the women’s and men’s categories, the establishment and implementation of such criteria should be carried out as part of a comprehensive approach grounded on the respect for internationally recognised human rights, robust evidence and athlete consultation.”

Indeed it is already clear that the IOC have been approaching this issue with such grounding as the new framework makes some significant steps:

  • The need for wellbeing measures and prevention of harm against transgender and intersex athletes has been recognised and prioritised.
  • Participation based upon testosterone suppression has been dropped and there is a clear steer away from policies that insist on clinical interventions for women.
  • The framework stresses that no assumption of an advantage due to gender should be made and expects policymakers to establish evidence of an advantage before an athlete should be excluded.
  • The principles suggest that policies amounting to blanket bans such as that of World Rugby or in the recent SCEG guidance are out of step with the Olympic Charter and the new framework.
  • The principles of inclusion and non-discrimination are highlighted as key, but also that they extend to all levels of sport and not only to elite competitive level.

Overall this is a big change from the IOC, and it’s a welcome change in the right direction.

You can read the full framework document here:

Note: The 10 guiding principles in the new framework are: inclusion, prevention of harm, non-discrimination, fairness, no presumption of advantage, evidence-based approach, primacy of health and bodily autonomy, stakeholder-centred approach, right to privacy and periodic reviews. 

Written on 20th November 2021.