Groundbreaking IOC Framework Centers Inclusion and Non-Discrimination

November 16, 2021 (New York, NY) — Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the launch of a groundbreaking new framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations.

This framework, which was developed in part through consultations with Athlete Ally and other affected stakeholders, offers guidance to sports bodies on how to draft and implement eligibility criteria which upholds the right of all athletes – regardless of gender identity, expression and/or sex variations – to participate in sport free from discrimination. The framework outlines ten guiding principles centered on inclusion, prevention of harm and non-discrimination, that further highlight the IOC’s intentional shift towards a rights-based approach as outlined in March 2020

Specifically, the framework includes the following significant considerations:

  • Recognizing and upholding gender autonomy (in which each individual determines their gender identity) and preventing policies and practices, including medically unnecessary procedures or treatment, from infringing upon the privacy and bodily autonomy of all athletes;  
  • Calling on international federations to identify potential harm caused by existing criteria, preventing abusive and harmful practices such as invasive physical examinations and sex testing, and recognizing the extreme and lasting trauma produced by these practices now and throughout history that have disproportionately impacted Black and Brown women athletes with sex variations in the Global South; 
  • Ensuring that no athlete is banned from competing based on an alleged or unverified advantage, shifting the burden of proof from the athlete to the sport governing body to develop criteria in line with ethical, cultural, and legal standards rooted in credible, peer-reviewed research; and 
  • Recognizing the vital importance of athlete voice and perspective in the development of eligibility criteria, and providing ways for affected athletes to be a critical part of decision making processes. 

The new framework updates and replaces existing guidelines, including the 2015 Consensus Statement. Unlike previous guidelines, the framework underscores that no athlete has an inherent advantage and moves away from eligibility criteria focused on testosterone levels. 

The framework follows a groundbreaking Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which saw the first ever openly transgender Olympians competing, including New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard and Canadian soccer player Quinn, who also became the world’s first openly transgender Olympic gold medalist. It also coincides with a record-breaking wave of anti-transgender legislation in the United States, in which myths and misinformation around competitive advantage have been used to promote discrimination within athletics, and in the midst of the European Court of Human Rights debating Caster Semenya’s right to compete.

“Far too often, sport policy does not reflect the lived experience of marginalized athletes, and that’s especially true when it comes to transgender athletes and athletes with sex variations,” said Quinn, Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist and Athlete Ally Ambassador. “This new IOC framework is groundbreaking in the way that it reflects what we know to be true — that athletes like me and my peers participate in sports without any inherent advantage, and that our humanity deserves to be respected.” 

“As with any set of guidelines, the success of this new framework in ensuring a safe and welcoming environment within the Olympic movement will largely depend on the education and implementation process with national governing bodies, international federations, and other key stakeholders,” said Anne Lieberman, Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally. “We hope to continue working closely with the IOC to ensure that the policies and practices governing sport actually include and represent the diversity of people playing sport.” 

Read the full framework here.

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