IOC releases 'Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-discrimination'

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LAUSANNE: Following a two-year consultation process with more than 250 athletes and concerned stakeholders, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Tuesday released its new “IOC Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations”.

Through this Framework, the IOC seeks to promote a safe and welcoming environment for everyone involved in elite-level competition, consistent with the principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter. The Framework also acknowledges the central role that eligibility criteria play in ensuring fairness, particularly in high-level organised sport in the women’s category.

The document is issued as part of the IOC’s commitment to respecting human rights (as expressed in Olympic Agenda 2020+5), and as part of the action taken to foster gender equality and inclusion. In issuing this Framework, the IOC recognises that it must be within the remit of each sport and its governing body to determine how an athlete may be at a disproportionate advantage compared with their peers, taking into consideration the nature of each sport. The IOC is therefore not in a position to issue regulations that define eligibility criteria for every sport, discipline or event across the very different national jurisdictions and sport systems.

Therefore, the aim of this Framework is to offer sporting bodies – particularly those in charge of organising elite-level competition – a 10-principle approach to help them develop the criteria that are applicable to their sport. Sports bodies will also need to consider particular ethical, social, cultural and legal aspects that may be relevant in their context.

The document was developed following an extensive consultation with athletes and stakeholders concerned. This included members of the athlete community, International Federations and other sports organisations, as well as human rights, legal and medical experts. It replaces and updates previous IOC statements on this matter, including the 2015 Consensus Statement.

This Framework 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.

Lastly, the IOC notes that most high-level organised sports competitions are staged with men’s and women’s categories competing separately. In this context, the principles contained in the Framework are aimed at ensuring that competition in each of these categories is fair and safe, and that athletes are not excluded solely on the basis of their transgender identity or sex variations.

Where eligibility criteria must be set in order to regulate the participation in the women’s and men’s categories, the establishment and implementation of such criteria should be carried out as part of a comprehensive approach grounded on respect for internationally recognised human rights, robust evidence and athlete consultation. In so doing, precautions should be taken to avoid causing harm to the health and well-being of athletes.

While the Framework has been drafted with the specific needs of high-level organised sports competitions in mind, the general principles of inclusion and non-discrimination should be promoted and defended at all levels of sport, especially for recreational and grass-roots sport.

Although the Framework was released Tuesday, the IOC is also planning a comprehensive roll-out phase, including webinars that may support IFs and athletes on this journey, starting after the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

The Framework was approved by the IOC Executive Board during its meeting on 12 November.