Lausanne, May 18:
Transsexuals have been cleared to compete in the Olympics for the first time. Under a proposal approved by the IOC executive board, athletes who have undergone sex-change surgery will be eligible for the Olympics if their new gender has been legally recognised and they have gone through a minimum two-year period of postoperative hormone therapy. The decision, which covers both male-to-female and female-to-male cases, goes into affect starting with this summerâ€™s Athens Olympics. The IOC had put off a decision on so-called transgender athletes in February, saying more time was needed to consider all the medical issues.
IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said the situation of transsexuals competing in high-level sports was â€œrare but becoming more common.â€ IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch said no specific sports had been singled out by the ruling. â€œAny sport may be touched by this problem,â€ he said. â€œUntil now, we didnâ€™t have any rules or regulations. We needed to establish some sort of policy.â€ Until 1999, the IOC conducted gender verification tests at the Olympics but the screenings were dropped before the 2000 Sydney Games. One of the best known cases of transsexuals in sports involves Renee Richards, formerly Richard Raskind, who played on the womenâ€™s tennis tour in the 1970s. In March, Australiaâ€™s Mianne Bagger became the first transsexual to play in a pro golf tournament. Michelle Dumaresq, formerly Michael, has competed in mountain bike racing for Canada. Richards, now a New York optha-mologist, was surprised by the decision and was against it. She said decisions on transsexuals should be made on an individual basis.