Olympic rules hand trans athletes ‘unfair’ advantage

People who were born male but are allowed to compete against women in sporting competitions are gaining an ‘intolerable unfair advantage’, scientific research has concluded.

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, three academics said International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines on levels of testosterone for transgender competitors creates an uneven playing field.

The academics however claimed the solution was to discard the male/female distinction in sport.


Taryn Knox, Lynley C Anderson and Alison Heather acknowledged that the inclusion of transgender athletes is controversial, and were clear that the disadvantage to women from the IOC guidelines is an “intolerable unfairness”.

In the essay, they considered how testosterone levels provided an “all-purpose benefit in sport” meaning transgender competitors “have a performance advantage”.

When looking at possible solutions, they said transgender athletes could be excluded from female events, but believed this would be “inconsistent with the principle of inclusion”.


Knox, Anderson and Heather suggested multiple divisions be established instead of male and female determined by an algorithm “which best mitigates unfair physical and social parameters”.

They concluded that to be “simultaneously inclusive and fair at the elite level the male/female binary must be discarded in favour of a more nuanced approach”.

Several female former elite athletes, including Martina Navratilova and Dame Kelly Holmes, have challenged the idea of men who say they are women competing against women.


A survey of more than 2,000 adults revealed that 63 per cent agreed with Navratilova, who had said men hold an unfair physical advantage.

Dame Kelly said she agreed with the serial Wimbledon champion. She explained it was “nothing to do with hatred or stopping people leading their lives as they wish”, but in sport “it’s a different matter”.

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