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Transwomen in elite sport: scientific and ethical considerations
  1. Taryn Knox1,
  2. Lynley C Anderson1,
  3. Alison Heather2
  1. 1 Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. 2 Department of Physiology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Associate Professor Lynley C Anderson, Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin 9001, New Zealand; lynley.anderson{at}otago.ac.nz

Abstract

The inclusion of elite transwomen athletes in sport is controversial. The recent International Olympic Committee (IOC) (2015) guidelines allow transwomen to compete in the women’s division if (amongst other things) their testosterone is held below 10 nmol/L. This is significantly higher than that of cis-women. Science demonstrates that high testosterone and other male physiology provides a performance advantage in sport suggesting that transwomen retain some of that advantage. To determine whether the advantage is unfair necessitates an ethical analysis of the principles of inclusion and fairness. Particularly important is whether the advantage held by transwomen is a tolerable or intolerable unfairness. We conclude that the advantage to transwomen afforded by the IOC guidelines is an intolerable unfairness. This does not mean transwomen should be excluded from elite sport but that the existing male/female categories in sport should be abandoned in favour of a more nuanced approach satisfying both inclusion and fairness.

  • feminism
  • human dignity
  • regulation
  • scientific research
  • sexuality/gender
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Footnotes

  • Contributors All three authors contributed to the planning, drafting and editing of the article. AH researched and analysed the scientific evidence, and LA and TK applied this empirical evidence to the ethical issues. All three authors were responsible for the arguments made in the final version of this paper. TK did the majority of the groundwork (eg, literature review) and final editing and referencing of the article. LA is the guarantor and the corresponding author for the article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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