Terming trans athletes ‘biologically male’ deemed ‘problematic’ in IOC report

The International Olympic Committee have provoked fury among former female competitors by asking journalists attending this summer’s Paris Games not to use terms such as “born male” or “biologically male” to describe transgender athletes, arguing that they were “dehumanising” and constituted “problematic language”.

In a 33-page “Portrayal Guidelines” document, the IOC have told the 20,000-strong media contingent that “a person’s sex category is not assigned based on genetics alone” and “it is always preferable to emphasise a person’s actual gender rather than potentially calling their identity into question by referring to the sex category that was registered on their original birth certificate”.

This advice flies in the face of actions taken by the major Olympic sports of athletics, swimming and cycling, all of which have revised their transgender policies in the past two years to prioritise sex over gender and ensure fairness for women in their own category. In 2022,


The IOC’s vacillation over trans athletes lies behind much of the discord and confusion that has engulfed sport on this issue. In 2004, it endorsed a policy for post-operative transsexuals to enter women’s events, insisting that the situation would be “extremely rare”. At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, their medical director, Dr Richard Budgett, declared: “Everyone agrees trans women are women.” Except many women agreed nothing of the sort, with France’s Marion Clignet presenting a survey to the UCI last year to show that 92 per cent of female cyclists favoured a ban on biological males from their events.

The listing of “born male” or “genetically male” under terms to avoid in Paris – along with a blanket guideline to replace “identifies as” with “is” – has sparked outrage among many ex-Olympians. Inga Thompson, a cyclist who represented the US at three Olympics, said: “The IOC media have allowed themselves to be bought, because deep down, they never wanted women to be in sports. The ultimate misogynist movement.”


Sharron Davies, the British swimming champion who took silver in Moscow in 1980, retweeted a post from Cathy Devine, a former lecturer in sport and physical activity at the University of Cumbria, branding the IOC’s document “breathtakingly sexist and complete propaganda”. Despite the backlash, Yiannis Exarchos, chief executive of Olympic Broadcasting Services, promised that his team in Paris would use the guidelines as “our Bible”.

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