IOC release framework on on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-discrimination

The IOC have released their ‘Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations’, replacing the 2015 consensus statement.


The framework gives sporting organisations “a 10-principle approach to help them develop the criteria that are applicable to their sport" to be taken as a coherent whole. In doing so the IOC recommends that sporting bodies "will also need to consider particular ethical, social, cultural and legal aspects that may be relevant in their context”.


For Athletes:

Of note, the framework provides that trans women should no longer be presumed to have an advantage, contrasting against the 'male advantage' argument.


Of further importance, in a significant departure from the previous position, under the framework trans women should no longer be pressured to undergo medical procedures or treatment to meet eligibility criteria, such as reducing their testosterone levels to compete in women’s categories. In addition athletes should no longer be excluded from sport or targeted for testing solely on the basis of their transgender identity or sex variations.


For sporting organisations:

The IOC continues its previous approach that fairness comes before inclusion as principle 3.2 (non-discrimination) defers to principle 4 (fairness). But what comes next, and in what order?


Where some sporting organisations may have been hoping for more of a prescriptive or a guided 'prioritised' approach from the IOC, the framework also continues to support the autonomy (and burden) for sporting organisations to develop eligibility criteria.


The continued challenge for sporting organisations will be that in navigating through the IOC approach, the framework may operate to worsen a clash of rights as it recognises “both the need to ensure that everyone, irrespective of their gender identity or sex variations, can practise sport in a safe, harassment-free environment that recognises and respects their needs and identities, and the interest of everyone – particularly athletes at elite level – to participate in fair competitions where no participant has an unfair and disproportionate advantage over the rest”. For some sporting organisations the balanced approach will always be problematic.


Any clash of rights in attempts to navigate a balanced approach, even where fairness comes first, may increase the burden for sporting organisations as they seek to develop or refine eligibility criteria according to the "particular ethical, social, cultural and legal aspects that may be relevant in their context".


As often for ethically based decisions in sports, the devil will be in the detail found within the values of that sport.


See: https://stillmed.olympics.com/media/Documents/News/2021/11/IOC-Framework-Fairness-Inclusion-Non-discrimination-2021.pdf?_ga=2.213043606.304591394.1637098561-935636223.1627536132


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