The IOC has revealed its framework for transgender and DSD athletes after nearly three years ©Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has revealed framework for transgender and differences in sex development (DSD) athletes which are to be used as a guideline for International Federations (IFs), with this implemented following the conclusion of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

This was approved by the IOC Executive Board during its meeting on Friday (November 12) and will recommend more flexibility to IFs on the inclusion of transgender and DSD athletes.

In its presentation, the organisation acknowledged that the situation was a "highly politicised and divisive debate" and that there was "no scientific consensus on how testosterone affects performance across sport".

However, IOC corporate communications and public affairs director Christian Klaue admitted the "advantage is different in different sports".

During the consultation process, there were more than 60 meetings in person, while more than 250 athletes and stakeholders were interviewed in total.

This consultation process and creating the framework took nearly three years.

These included members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community, athletes of all gender identities, IFs and National Olympic Committees, human rights organisations and the IOC Legal Affairs Commission.

Webinars are to be made available for athletes and IFs to familiarise themselves with the new framework.

The framework is a move away from the 2015 Consensus Statement, which had a "one-size-fits-all" approach to the participation of transgender athletes, based on testosterone levels.

However, the IOC said its new approach - which features 10 basic principles - should allow flexibility for IFs, giving them space to design eligibility criteria that works for the sport and in the correct context.

Despite the IOC's encouragement from all IFs to adopt the framework, it is not legally binding and is there as a recommendation to sports bodies.

Namibia's DSD athlete Christine Mboma was forced to move from 400m to 200m due to testosterone levels, but still won silver at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
Namibia's DSD athlete Christine Mboma was forced to move from 400m to 200m due to testosterone levels, but still won silver at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

The IOC outlined the 10 principles it said IFs should adhere to and not "pick and choose" from.

These are inclusion, prevent harm, non-discrimination, fairness, no presumption of advantage, evidence-based, primacy of health, stakeholder-centred, privacy and periodic review.

Inclusion and non-discrimination highlighted the allowance of participation of transgender and DSD athletes, while fairness acknowledged the need to stop unfair advantages.

There were discussions from the IOC head of public affairs Katia Mascagni on preventing harm for athletes, as well as covering the areas of no presumption of advantage, evidence-based and privacy.

In a slide titled "What we have learned", Mascagni explained some of the changes the IOC was recommending for those principles, with the first being focus on performance rather than women's bodies of physical examinations, which they described as "invasive".

It includes the move to flexibility over testosterone, and also stressed the need to move from requiring women to modify their hormone levels - which could have an adverse impact on their health - and instead requests all women without giving an unfair advantage.

Changing hormone levels artificially and invasive physical tests have been an issue within the athletics community, most notably in the case of DSD South African athlete Caster Semenya. 

Crucially, the IOC has pointed to the periodic review principle, which would enact a change in policy with new and improved evidence on the subject.

Laurel Hubbard became the first transgender woman to compete at the Olympics ©Getty Images
Laurel Hubbard became the first transgender woman to compete at the Olympics ©Getty Images

"This is an ever-evolving topic," said Klaue.

"We have not found the solution to this, but what we are trying to do is outline a process that helps International Federations to set eligibility criteria and find solutions.

"We will continue to do that, but clearly this is a topic that will be with us for a long time.

"It's not over next week, not over next month and not over next year.

"It's a long-term project which we will work with the IFs and the sports communities."

Part of this push for better guidelines is through a research fund that will make transgender and DSD research one of the IOC's priorities, thus improving the framework.

"It's very important that we broaden the evidence base," IOC medical and scientific director Richard Budgett told insidethegames

"There is some interesting ongoing research that needs to come to a conclusion and then that will give us much more information about performance which is the key for determining eligibility."

The IOC first introduced eligibility for transgender people in 2003, but this required a drop in testosterone and gender reassignment surgery.

This was changed in 2015 with the Consensus Statement, only requiring a drop in testosterone to below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months.