Transgender Eligibility Policy in Sport: Science, Ethics, and Evidence

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Teetzel, Sarah
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Parnassos Press
In response to cases of high-profile athletes’ sex being called into question, prior to the 2012 London Olympic Games, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) updated its policy addressing the conditions under which athletes are eligible to compete in the women’s sport category. The IAAF’s policy, which stipulated the eligibility conditions that transgender athletes, as well as athletes with disorders of sex development (DSD) and hyperandrogenism, must meet to participate in high-performance sport, was subsequently endorsed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and remained in effect until 2015 when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ordered the immediate suspension of the policy. The decision rendered mixed reactions, with some dissenting voices echoing American athlete Summer Pierson’s (2011) view that “it is a privilege to compete, and in order to enjoy such a privilege, the sacrifice of certain rights is required” (323). To engage in moral evaluation of the policy, more information is needed about how the rules in force apply to and impact athletes. To gain new knowledge about athletes’ views of the sex verification regulations, athletes who identify as a trans and high-performance female athletes were invited to participate in semi-structured, in-depth interviews about their understanding of, and reactions to, rules governing sex verification in sport. Athletes, such as Pierson, who speak openly about their concerns regarding rule changes that promote inclusive sport have faced criticism and charges of intolerance, and may fear losing sponsorship opportunities for speaking their minds (Ljungqvist & Genel, 2005). For example, MMA fighter Ronda Roussey received negative publicity after questioning whether trans women MMA fighters compete at an advantage compared to athletes identified as female at birth (Samano, 2013). In discussing the results from this study, this presentation analyzes athletes’ public and private experiences supporting and challenging sex verification rules mandated by sport governing bodies, such as the IOC, IAAF, and CAS. The philosophy of sport literature is quite silent on the extent that athletes’ views should shape policymaking on contentious ethical issues. The perspectives of the people impacted most (that is, the athletes) certainly need to be included in the dialogue; however, the extent that their perspectives should be privileged over other views remains unclear. Thus, this chapter focuses on the impact of athletes’ voices in determining the moral acceptability of rule changes in sport.
Sport, Athletes' rights, Transgender athletes, Sport eligibility, Gender and sport
Teetzel, S. (2017). Transgender eligibility policies in sport: Science, ethics, and evidence. In H. L. Reid & E. Moore (Eds.), Reflecting on Modern Sport in Ancient Olympia: Proceedings of the 2016 Conference of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (161-170). Parnassos Press.