Transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in the Olympics and other international events without undergoing sex-reassignment surgery, according to new guidelines adopted by the IOC.
International Olympic Committee medical officials told the Associated Press on Sunday they changed the policy to adapt to current scientific, social and legal attitudes on transgender issues.
The guidelines are designed as recommendations — not rules or regulations — for international sports federations and other groups to follow and should apply for this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"I don't think many federations have rules on defining eligibility of transgender individuals," IOC medical director Dr. Richard Budgett said. "This should give them the confidence and stimulus to put these rules in place."
Under the previous IOC guidelines, approved in 2003, athletes who transitioned from male to female or vice versa were required to have reassignment surgery followed by at least two years of hormone therapy in order to be eligible to compete.
Now, surgery will no longer be required, with female-to-male transgender athletes eligible to take part in men's competitions "without restriction."
Meanwhile, male-to-female transgender athletes will need to demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below a certain cutoff point for at least one year before their first competition.
The guidelines, first reported by Outsports.com, were approved after a meeting in November in Lausanne, Switzerland, of Olympic officials and medical experts.
"We had to review and look into this from a new angle," former IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist, who was among those drafting the guidelines, told the AP. "We needed to adapt to the modern legislation around the world. We felt we cannot impose a surgery if that is no longer a legal requirement."