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Transgender surgery pioneer makes emphatic plea to allow trans athletes to compete in 2020 Olympics

Michele Theil January 6, 2020
olympics

Dr Sherman Leis, a pioneer in transgender surgery, has said made an emphatic call to allow trans athletes to compete in the Olympics.

The summer Olympics will be set in Tokyo this year but some transgender athletes may not be able to compete due to a lack of clarity in the guidelines set out by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

These guidelines, deciding whether trans people can compete in elite-level sporting events, are “being made based on preconceived ideas about transgender people that are potentially excluding athletes from competing,” Dr Leis said.

Current guidelines, which were modified in 2015, state that transgender female athletes can compete in women’s sports as long as their testosterone level is kept under 10 nanomoles per litre for at least one year prior to the competition and throughout the period of time they will be competing.

The IOC no longer require transgender athletes to have fully gone through gender reassignment surgery to compete.

‘We’ll just have to see if the IOC can recognise transgender athletes’ humanity.’

Leis, co-founder of The Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery, in Pennsylvania, remains hopeful that the sporting body will be mindful of trans athletes ahead of the Olympics.

“The medical community has a number of established and successful protocols in place for the treatment of transgender patients, and it’s my hope that organising board will do a better job of heeding those recommendations,” he said.

This subject is extremely controversial, with the IOC recently deciding to stick to the guidelines released in 2015.

The debate around transgender athletes is usually to do with the potential for unfair advantage, particularly in height and strength gained during puberty.

The current scientific panel have not yet reached a consensus on how to both create a fair sporting environment while being inclusive of transgender athletes.

“The suppression of testosterone for at least a year has enough of an effect on the body to reduce muscle mass, strength and energy which should be fairly evident to even non-medical professionals based on the infrequency of transgender athletic champions.

“We’ll just have to see if the IOC can recognise transgender athletes’ humanity and desire to compete in time for the games in Tokyo,” Dr Leis explains.

Findings from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden dispute Dr Leis’ statement however, suggesting that “testosterone suppression for transgender women have little effect on reducing muscle strength even after a year of treatment,” according to The Guardian.

But, Dr Leis maintains that transgender athletes should still be allowed to compete – under more understanding and conclusive guidelines.

Dr Leis is a transgender surgeon and a co-founder of The Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery, in Pennsylvania, a leading facility for gender reassignment surgery.

More: 2020 Olympics, Tokyo, trans athletes

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