Olympic chiefs have been urged by one of the sport’s most influential figures to improve controversial guidelines on transgender participation. sports mail can reveal.
According to the president of the body representing summer Olympic sports, rulemakers need clearer guidance when setting gender eligibility rules.
Franceso Ricci Bitti also said the updated recommendations should include input from leading scientists after the International Olympic Committee was heavily criticized for publishing a framework that allegedly overlooked their expertise.
sports mailmeanwhile, can reveal that FIFA has expanded an external consultation on its draft transgender guidelines to include more academics.
“The human rights approach is that transgender women should be free to lead normal lives,” Bitti said. “That’s totally true, of course, but maybe not on the elite professional side of the sport.
“The opinion of the international associations is that inclusion is a social value. Therefore, the admission rule for restriction should first be scientifically based and designed to maintain fairness in top-level competition.
“I think the latest guidelines are too evasive and that’s why we need to improve them or we lose values [of competitiveness].’
Olympic bosses have been urged to improve their policies on transgender participation
Bitti, who heads the influential Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, is arguably the longest-serving figure within the Olympic movement to step out of line and challenge the International Olympic Committee’s framework for gender eligibility.
The guidelines released in November dropped the requirement for transgender women and DSD athletes to reduce their testosterone levels to five nanomoles per liter for 12 months prior to competition.
The framework states that no transgender woman or DSD athlete should assume that she has a physical advantage over female athletes without evidence to the contrary. It was further stated that athletes should be allowed to compete in the gender category of their choice as long as fairness is not compromised.
The framework has been hailed as a step forward by human rights organizations concerned about the unfavorable treatment of trans and DSD athletes.
But it has been criticized by women’s groups and scientists, who said it overlooks both the sporting benefits of male puberty and too much responsibility for individual sports to impose their own limitations. Many are aware that they lack the expertise and resources to do this independently.
Bitti was speaking at a conference in Rome organized by the International Federation of Sports Medicine Associations (FIMS), which released an influential position paper this year criticizing IOC guidelines for endangering the “integrity” of women’s sport – as sports mail uncovered.
Franceso Ricci Bitti (pictured speaking in Thailand in 2018) has said that rule-setters need to provide clearer guidance when setting the rules for gender suitability in elite sport
“Society has become much more complex in the last 10 to 15 years and we are moving towards a more inclusive society where everyone’s human rights must be respected,” Bitti said. “We understand that people have more in common than differences. And we need to find solutions that maximize inclusion, fairness and safety in elite sport, but that’s very difficult.
“Two of the concepts are completely incompatible in many sports, inclusion and fairness. Sport is not included at the top. If you hit someone, you’re kidding them.’
Global swim and cycling governing bodies both recently tightened their rules on transgender participation following the global controversy surrounding American swimmer Lia Thomas and British track cyclist Emily Bridges, both transgender athletes.
Fina has banned trans swimmers from elite competitions, while the UCI has lowered the allowable testosterone threshold from five to 2.5 nanomoles per liter over a 12-month period. Other Olympic sports such as rowing, triathlon and hockey have been known to review their policies.
sports mail revealed that FIFA has drafted a framework that aligns with IOC recommendations and prioritizes inclusion. However, the external consultation process is now taking advice from sports scientists, who believe there should be a medical threshold, at least for female competitions.
FIFA has now expanded an external consultation on its draft transgender guidelines
FIMS has argued that the IOC should reintroduce a testosterone threshold of 5 nmol/L pending further research on the subject. She has also called on the IOC and other major sporting bodies to provide much-needed funding for this work. Bitti agreed that any updated guidelines should include both scientific and legal advice.
“We want to work with the IOC to get more robust guidelines,” Bitti said. “What we want from the IOC is a little more definition. We cannot come to any conclusion that does not include what our speakers say [at the conference]from a scientific and legal point of view, have said.’
Bitti revealed that the IOC has recommended that individual sports federations form committees composed of academic, legal and human rights experts when drafting regulations.
“The recommendation is that every IF [international federation] should appoint a multidisciplinary team reflecting the legal, scientific, ethical and social dimensions of this problem.
The IOC said its “framework for fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination based on gender identity and gender variation” encourages associations to rely on scientific research.
“The IOC recognizes the value of scientific expertise in helping how sports governing bodies determine what they consider to be an unfair and disproportionate advantage,” it said in a statement. “The framework includes several principles aimed at helping sports governing bodies to identify and capitalize on relevant scientific research.”