The IOC Executive Board confirmed the existing consensus statement will remain in place ©IOC

Existing International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines on the eligibility of transgender athletes will remain in place for Tokyo 2020, amid an ongoing consultation process.

The IOC Executive Board received a report today on the consultation process regarding athletes’ inclusion on the basis of sex characteristics and gender identity.

The consultation is aimed at developing a framework and guidelines for athletes and International Federations, which would be based upon data research and the latest information in the scientific and human rights sectors.

A consensus statement published in 2015 approved the eligibility of those who transition from male to female in the female category under a series of conditions.

The athlete would have to have declared that their gender identity is female, with the declaration unable to be changed for a minimum of four years.

Athletes would also be required to demonstrate that their total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months prior to their first competition - with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women’s competition.

An athlete's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category.

Compliance with the conditions may be monitored by testing, with non-compliance leading to eligibility to compete in events being suspended for 12 months.

The consensus statement will remain in place for Tokyo 2020, due to the ongoing consultation process and the inability to make a change while qualification for the Olympic Games is taking place.

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is among the highest profile transgender athletes ©Getty Images
Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is among the highest profile transgender athletes ©Getty Images

“Overall, the discussions so far have confirmed considerable tension between the notions of fairness and inclusion, and the desire and need to protect the women’s category,” the IOC Executive Board said.

“Opinions are very diverse and difficult to reconcile, and perceptions differ strongly.

“The new IOC guidelines will have to balance all of these.

“A change of the existing guidelines - the 2015 Consensus Statement - at this stage would mean a change of rules during an ongoing competition with the qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games already underway.

“Such a change, therefore, would be neither ethically nor legally admissible.

“Furthermore, it was always clear that the IOC could not change its existing guidelines while the consultation is ongoing.”

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is the most high-profile transgender athlete seeking to compete at Tokyo 2020.

The New Zealander’s hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games rest on her performance in the Oceania Championships in Nauru next month.

International Federations (IFs) have begun to introduce their own regulations in recent months.

World Rugby is looking to develop a rugby-specific policy for transgender participation ©World Rugby
World Rugby is looking to develop a rugby-specific policy for transgender participation ©World Rugby

World Athletics, which hosted a meeting in Lausanne to discuss the topic in November, said IF officials were in agreement with eligibility rules passed by the worldwide body.

Under World Athletics regulations, the concentration of testosterone in an athlete must be less than five nanomoles per litre continuously for a period of at least 12 months prior to being declared eligible.

The International Paralympic Committee, International Tennis Federation, World Rowing and the International Golf Federation were among the IFs to attend the meeting.

The International Cycling Union introduced similar guidelines to World Athletics, which came into force on Sunday (March 1).

World Rugby has also held a workshop to help develop an equitable, safe and evidence-based, rugby-specific policy for transgender participation.

Independent experts from areas of performance, science, medicine, risk, law and socio-ethics, were invited to share their expertise, opinions and research at a two-day workshop in London, with representatives from organisations such as International Gay Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and Fair Play for Women also in attendance.

Attendees agreed on the main issues surrounding the physiological basis of performance differences between men and women, as well as confirming that further consultation and research was required, particularly in the areas of specific injury risk, ethical considerations and performance.

World Rugby also committed to explore further research to inform future guideline revision.

The IOC has expressed their support for IFs to tailor rules for their individual sports.

“This is an incredibly difficult field and it deals with individuals, we cannot have a hard and fast or one size fits all,” said Mark Adams, IOC spokesperson.

“We looked at our consensus statement, which seems the best route to take.

“Would be wrong at this stage it impose an overall rule on federations.

“It is not even just the sport, it is by discipline, where there are differences in performance for transgender and intersex athletes.

“We think the best way forward is to allow each federation to tailor its rules to individual sports and disciplines and try to offer fairest way possible that we can.

“There is no hiding from it, there is a real tension between fairness, inclusivity and protecting women’s sport.”