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Q24. Why Do Some Sports Organizations And Governing Bodies – Including The NCAA – Require That Males Who Identify As Transgender Reduce Their Testosterone Levels For A Year Before They Can Compete In Girls’/Women’s Interscholastic And Intercollegiate Competition?

A24. The NCAA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and many international sport federations (IFs) and national sport governing bodies (NGBs), initially adopted eligibility rules that required males who identify as transgender to reduce their testosterone levels for at least a year before they would become eligible to compete in girls’/women’s events. This accommodation was a policy compromise, based in the hypothesis that if a male who identifies as transgender reduced her testosterone levels into the female range and kept her levels consistently within that range for at least a year, her male-linked advantages would decline to the point that it would be fair to include her in girls’/women’s competition. The hypothesis itself was based on the fact that males who identify as transgender are biologically male and that testosterone was the primary driver of the performance gap between male and female athletes. Just how much gender-affirming hormones reduced her male sex-linked advantages and what “legacy advantages” remained was still the subject of ongoing scientific investigation at the time such eligibility rules were adopted. However, we now know more.  Research over the last couple of years has demonstrated that one year of hormone therapy is insufficient and legacy advantage is greater than originally hypothesized. Further, the transgender community has changed its original position supporting mitigation of testosterone as a condition of eligibility for competitive sport to insisting that unmitigated males who identify as transgender be eligible to participate.

In 2021, the IOC withdrew from its transgender eligibility governance responsibility and placed that responsibility into “the remit of each sport and its governing body to determine how an athlete may be at a disproportionate advantage against their peers, taking into consider the nature of each sport,” issuing vague guidance, the IOC Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations. The Framework failed to clearly state that the rights of that subset of males who identify as transgender who have male sex-linked advantages would not be prioritized over the rights of females who do not have such advantages or to require that IFs adopt evidence-based inclusion that does not defeat the female physiological category. Notwithstanding this deficient IOC guidance, IFs now have the real authority under the Olympic Charter to establish eligibility standards for their sports, a process that was not completed by the end of 2022 and is still ongoing. It is expected that they will develop standards for including transgender women in female sport that are based in the best available scientific evidence about how sex differences impact safety and performance and that under such rules, women who identify as transgender will be included in female sport in ways that are not female category defeating. It is expected that NGBs, the USOPC, and other sports governing organizations, like high school federations and the NCAA, will adopt these rules consistent with science.