The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has defended its position that despite criticism of tennis great Martina Navratilova, it is up to each international sports body to set its own rules for the inclusion of transgender athletes.
Gay rights trailblazer Navratilova criticized the IOC earlier this week for its lack of leadership on the issue of including transgender athletes in the sport.
The issue was brought to the fore by last week’s decision by the governing body of swimming, FINA, to ban athletes going through any part of male puberty from selected women’s competitions.
“This is a very divisive, very difficult situation, a very difficult topic where we have to try to balance justice with inclusion,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a virtual news conference on Friday.
“But what we’re clear about is that every player should know best how to look not only at the game but also at its branches and know where there is a reasonable advantage.”
The IOC last year amended its guidelines on inclusion with the new framework, advising that athletes would not be excluded on the basis of “perceived” unreasonable benefits, but would be left to the sports federation to determine the rules.
Adams said it would take some time to finalize the rules.
But we cannot come up with a rule. A short rule that fits everyone. It should be through sport and also through discipline, ”he said. “So we accept that there will be criticism. It is inevitable. I am afraid. But we will do our best to balance fairness and inclusiveness.
Navratilova said it was extremely difficult to strike a balance between inclusion and fairness in individual events and that the IOC had shifted the responsibility of the issue to federations with sometimes weak funding.
“The IOC has fully punished,” Navratilva, who has won a total of 59 Grand Slam titles, told The Australian.
“It’s ‘oh, we’ll leave it to individual federations.’ How can these individual federations make their own different rules in their country?” She said.
“He’ll have to do research and implementation … and then he’ll have to spend money to find it, and that’s impossible.”
While FINA hired leading scientists on the task force who drafted its rules, advocates for transgender inclusion argue that the effects of transition on physical performance have not yet been adequately studied.
LGBT rights group Athlete Alley said FINA’s new eligibility criteria were “discriminatory” and “harmful”, while transgender cyclist Veronica Ivy described the policy as “unscientific”.