“Sport in Transition” paper supports the rights of transgender and intersex athletes

(Ottawa, Ontario – October 23, 2012) – The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) today released a report entitled, “Sport in Transition: Making Sport in Canada More Responsible for Gender Inclusivity.” The document concludes that, because variations in sex development exist, individuals should have the right to compete without question in the gender they feel they are or have always identified with, and emphasizes that this right to gender self-identification carries both the privilege of inclusion and the responsibility for fair play. Without presuming to have all the answers, the CCES released this report to stimulate discussion far and wide throughout sport. Read the report and join the conversation using the links below.

The CCES convened the discussion by selecting a group of experts, who explored the scientific and ethical foundations of this very complex issue. They found that there is no historical evidence of one gender impersonating another in sport for competitive advantage. They determined that there is no one marker in the body that can determine a person’s gender. And they discovered that the scientific evidence for any unfair advantage due to variations in androgen levels in intersex and transgender athletes is very unclear.

In contrast, it is very clear that a small group of athletes with variations in sex development are vulnerable to invasions of privacy, unfair and intrusive testing, arbitrary exclusions or hurtful prejudices. The experts determined that the arguments for gender testing do not outweigh the harm that it causes, and concluded that there is no justification for gender testing or verification in sport.

“This report’s most pivotal recommendation is to remove from athletes the burden of proving their gender, and shift the responsibility to sport institutions to make their sports more inclusive,” said Paul Melia, President and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. “No longer should individual athletes be responsible for securing their own right to compete; the governing bodies must develop sport cultures that are welcoming, secure and safe for all athletes.”

The report also states that although anti-doping programs must continue to identify athletes who are using banned substances for competitive advantage, it is inappropriate and potentially harmful to use anti-doping as a process for gender verification. Rather, individual cases where androgen levels may lie outside the norm for a gender should be managed with care and privacy through the therapeutic use exemption process available to all athletes.

“I commend the CCES for its leadership in bringing these experts from various disciplines together,” said Bruce Kidd, a member of the expert group and a professor of kinesiology and physical education at the University of Toronto. “The group drew upon both scientific evidence and ethical reasoning to surface a new and comprehensive way of looking at this complex issue. I urge the entire world to take note of this report and change rules and practice accordingly.”

The report, subtitled “a conversation of discovery, clarification and implications among experts,” was written by John Dalla Costa, a Toronto-based author and internationally acclaimed expert in fostering ethical excellence in operations and outcomes (www.ceo-ethics.com). The CCES presents the paper as a step in the process towards ensuring that the rights of transgender and intersex athletes are fully respected at all levels of sport.

Even among experts, the terminology and data points were not without controversy. In fact, this constructive engagement around differences was a profound benefit of this exchange, and part of its due diligence. In sport, as in society, we need to have these complex conversations on difficult issues.

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport is an independent, national, not-for-profit organization. We recognize that true sport can make a great difference for individuals, communities and our country. We are committed to working collaboratively to activate a values-based and principle-driven sport system; protecting the integrity of sport from the negative forces of doping and other unethical threats; and advocating for sport that is fair, safe and open to everyone.

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