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Are the Olympics Cheating Their Own Athletes?

By Chloe H.

The Olympics are one of the biggest sports events to happen worldwide. People of all ethnicities come together and compete in a variety of athletic events. But, when it comes to gender, not everyone can compete. In 2016, transgender athletes participating in the Rio Olympics were only allowed to compete in the games if they had two years or more of hormonal therapy. In this year’s Pyeongchang Olympic games, all participating transgender athletes were able to compete. Well, almost all athletes. Female-to-male athletes didn’t need to show proof of hormonal changes or legal recognition, while male-to-female athletes did. After reading both the 2016 and 2018 Olympic transgender guidelines, it is clear that one set of rules is superior to the other in terms of living up to the message the Olympics is trying to spread.

In the Rio Olympics of 2016, all transgender athletes competing had to follow specific rules and regulations, most importantly hormonal changes. According to CNN, “Transgender athletes have been allowed to compete at the Games since 2004 but only after surgery, having undergone a minimum of two years hormone therapy and being legally recognized as their changed gender.” Some surgeries that athletes may have to receive could be top or bottom surgery and more. However, the decision is not too unfair, because all athletes received fair treatment by following all the same rules. The 2016 Rio guidelines had applied to all transgender athletes, and even though it was unfair, it didn’t target one division of athletes.

In the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, the rules were altered, but not for the greater good. For this year’s Winter Games, transgender participants needed to show proof of hormonal therapy and surgeries, but it wasn’t fairly applied. According to the Guardian, “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.” Not all competitors were treated fairly because they would be excluded from the division they chose to compete in if they didn’t follow certain regulations. Although the 2018 Pyeongchang guidelines didn’t require proof of hormonal therapy for everyone, it was still unfair because certain athletes had to show proof while others were let off the hook.

According to the official Olympic website, “The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” Clearly, the transgender rules of the 2018 Olympic Games do not line up with the goal of mutual understanding and fair play. However, the Rio 2016 guidelines were much more reasonable and fair than those of 2018. Even though athletes had to provide proof of being legally recognized as their changed gender, it was still an even playing field, since it applied to all players. By applying the same rule to all players, the Olympics would live up to what they advertise to be. The Olympic website claims they’re all for including everyone and not leaving anyone out, but how are you supposed to back up that claim if your rules go against it?

Student Bio

Chloe H.

2018 Summer Program
2019 MSU Oranges Camp

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