Metro Weekly

Republicans Want Trans Athletes Banned from the Olympics

A pair of Republicans in Congress have introduced a bill to ban transgender athletes from women's sports at the Olympic and amateur levels.

Olympic rings – Illustration by Todd Franson

Congressional Republicans have introduced a new bill to ban transgender athletes from participating for any U.S. sports teams taking part in international competitions.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) and U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) introduced versions of the “Protection of Women in Olympic and Amateur Sports Act” in their respective chambers.

The bill would ban transgender women from participating on any team recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Previously, the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines required all women who competed — whether transgender or cisgender — to maintain a low level of testosterone (lower than ten nanomoles per liter of blood) for at least one year prior to competing.

As a result, some female athletes women with higher-than-normal testosterone levels, like two-time South African Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, were forced to take medication to reduce the competitive edge they held against fellow women athletes.

In 2021, the IOC issued an updated policy in which the governing bodies of individual sports would determine whether an athlete was eligible to compete. 

More recently, it has been suggested that transgender athletes should only be allowed to compete if they never underwent male puberty or completed their transition by age 12.

Yet it is unclear what is meant by completing transition — and whether that would require gender confirmation surgery or just hormonal interventions.

If the latter, a vast majority of transgender athletes would still be excluded, as they would have had to be out and receiving puberty blockers or hormones by age 12. If the former, all transgender athletes would be excluded, as gender confirmation surgery is not performed on minors. 

The congressional Republicans cited their disagreement with USA Boxing’s recently adopted eligibility policy, which technically allows transgender women to compete as women, but places significant restrictions that will essentially prevent most transgender athletes from competing as women.

Among those restrictions are a requirement to have undergone gender confirmation surgery, and demonstrate that an athlete’s testosterone level has been below five nanomoles per liter for at least 48 months prior to competing.

The policy also imposes separate restrictions for transgender males, including a requirement to undergo gender confirmation surgery and maintain their testosterone levels in a certain range.

But even though USA Boxing’s policy would, in practice, prohibit an overwhelming majority of trans athletes from competing, Republicans balked at the idea that any trans female might potentially compete, and pointed to the policy as justification for the bill.

“It is deeply disturbing to see USA Boxing change its policy to allow men to box against women,” Tuberville said in a statement. “Men should not be competing in women’s sports at any level — and especially not in a sport like boxing. Whether in Little League or the Olympics, it’s unsafe, it’s unfair, and it’s just plain wrong. This bill will ensure that the Olympics are fair to American women who train their whole lives to represent our country on the world stage.”

If passed into law, Tuberville and Steube’s bills would not only ban trans women from U.S. Olympic teams, but from competing in amateur sports leagues that are recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

For example, in the case of USA Boxing, to remain certified, the governing body for the sport would have to overhaul its own rules and institute an across-the-board ban on transgender athletes, requiring all competitors to compete based on their assigned sex at birth.

Defenders of the proposed legislation say it’s necessary to protect the integrity of sports and ensure that cisgender females are not denied athletic opportunities by being forced to compete against athletes who have physical or physiological advantages over them.

“Due to the illogical USA Boxing transgender policy, I introduced legislation to prevent organizations who choose to live in delusion from being recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee,” Steube said in a press release. “We must combat the erasure of women’s sports by standing for truth, reality, safety, and fairness.”

Steube previously introduced a bill to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports at all levels. That bill passed along party lines in the Republican-controlled House but has gained no traction in the Democratic-led Senate.

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