(Reuters) – There are no perfect solutions to the transgender sport issue, the head of the United States Olympic Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said on Thursday, adding that not even its own board is in agreement on a way forward.
The transgender sport debate exploded this week after FINA, world swimming’s governing body, voted to restrict the participation of transgender competitors in women’s competition and establish an “open” category, a move widely opposed by LGBT rights advocates.
Following FINA’s decision many other sport federations, including world soccer’s governing body FIFA and World Athletics have moved to review their transgender eligibility policies.
The International Olympic Committee said in November no athlete should be excluded from competition on the grounds of a perceived unfair advantage, while leaving it up to sports International Federations (IF) to decide where the balance lay between inclusion and fairness.
USOPC Chair Susanne Lyons said her organisation would also leave it up to the IFs and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) to develop policies but expects to be part of the discussion.
“I think we would all agree there are no perfect solutions to this very complex issue,” said Lyons, whose term as CEO comes to an end in January. “Things need to be decided at the federation level.
“We’re not the decision makers on what the policies will be but we do feel that we do have an obligation to be informed and educated and provide whatever tools our NGBs need as they work with their IFs to try to develop their own policy.”
Advocates for transgender inclusion argue that not enough studies have yet been done on the impact of transition on physical performance, and that elite athletes are often physical outliers in any case.
Balancing the Olympic Movement’s core values of safety, fairness and inclusion with individual rights of athletes, however, is a tricky equation.
“Part of inclusion is the individual right of an athlete to compete,” Lyons said. “Those a values are at odds in this particular instance.
“Not everyone agrees. Even in our own board I would say we are not yet aligned on if one those values or more need to take precedence over another,” she added.
“We do not have all the answers, we don’t even have all the agreements yet but we will try to provide as much support as possible to our partner NGBs as they struggle to set policy on this.”