With roughly a year until the commencement of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has announced a significant change to the structure of the sport. According to a document published Aug. 8, 2023, the IWF has approved the creation of a new Open Gender division of competitive weightlifting.
The move comes amid a series of other updates to how the IWF will determine competitive eligibility for “non-cisgender” weightlifters who wish to partake in IWF-sanctioned events. The IWF appears to be tightening its eligibility restrictions for the Men’s and Women’s divisions, while offering the Open Gender division as a pathway to the platform for “non-cisgender” athletes.
The division falls under what the IWF called an “Updated Gender Identity Policy” in an Aug. 07 news update, wherein the organization also detailed a number of other athlete-focused bureaucratic changes.
Editor’s Note: The initial Aug. 8 policy document was removed from the IWF website on Aug. 9. An IWF spokesperson told BarBend over email that the policy document was initially pulled to include the enforcement date of Aug. 1, 2023. You can see a new upload of the policy here.
The extensive policy outlines the IWF’s updated parameters for both the Men’s and Women’s divisions as well as the new Open Gender category. Note that these policy updates are “applicable only to athletes competing in domestic, continental or international competitions hosted or sanctioned by the [IWF].”
Here are the updated eligibility requirements for all three categories of competitive weightlifting:
- Women’s Events are for athletes who identify as:
- “A cis-female athlete.”
- “Those who are assigned female at birth (may include non-binary, DSD [differences in sex development], [or] intersex [athletes].)”
- “Those trans-female athletes who complete hormonal transition before completion of puberty.”
- Men’s Events are for athletes who identify as:
- “A cis-male athlete.”
- “Those who are assigned male at birth (may include non-binary, DSD, [or] intersex [athletes].)”
- “Those trans-male athletes who complete hormonal transition before completion of puberty.”
- Open Gender Events:
- “These events are for athletes of any non-cisgender, intersex, those identifying as a gender not congruent with their assigned birth gender, [and] DSD athletes.”
- “Cis-men and cis-women may not participate in Open Gender category.”
These changes effectively tighten the restrictions for transgender, non-binary, intersex, or DSD athletes who wish to compete in the Men’s or Women’s divisions.
Previously, the IWF aligned its eligibility criteria regarding transgender athletes with that of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which stipulated that the athlete maintain specific levels of serum testosterone.
Additionally, the document outlines new gender criteria. In order to be eligible for any IWF competition, an athlete must satisfy these requirements. Note that the stipulations below do not constitute the full list of requirements for each gender identity:
- “An athlete may always register as the athlete’s birth gender.”
- “Must adhere to WADA accepted hormone levels for cisgender athletes.”
- “An athlete who identifies as non-binary but wants to compete in the category of the gender assigned at birth, is permitted if the eligibility requirements are met.”
- Male-to-Female Transgender (MTF)
- “[The athlete] must complete hormonal transition before completion of puberty in order to compete in cis-female category.”
- “She must provide a written and signed declaration issued by an endocrinologist, in a form satisfactory to the Gender Committee, that her gender identity is female.”
- “She must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Gender Committee (on the balance of probabilities), in accordance with rules, that the concentration of testosterone in her serum has been less than 2.5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 12 months (per IOC rules)”
- Female-to-Male Transgender (FTM)
- “To be eligible to participate in the cis-male category at a IWF Competition, a transgender male athlete must provide a written and signed declaration issued by an endocrinologist, in a form satisfactory to the Gender Committee, that his gender identity is male.”
- “Once an athlete begins hormone therapy, he must submit documentation of his hormone therapy and testosterone level to the IWF Gender Committee for evaluation at least 1 month prior to the every [sic] IWF-sanctioned event he participates in.”
- “If his androgenic hormone levels are found to be in excess of the internationally accepted standard for transgender treatment, the athlete’s eligibility for competition may be suspended until androgenic hormone levels are found to be within accepted limits of the internationally accepted standard for transgender treatment for at least 12 months.”
- Differences in Sexual Development (DSD)
- “[Eligibility assessment] will be on a case-by-case basis.”
- “An accredited specialist (ordinarily, an endocrinologist) will be required to assess the lifter and provide a report as to the diagnosis (if possible) and determine the dominant active hormone(s).”
- “The individual’s supervising physician will also be required to provide medical comment on the perceived dominant gender characteristics displayed by the individual. To be reviewed by IWF Gender sub-committee to determine competition category.”
Notably, the IWF stipulates that competitors in any of the three divisions must “comply with IOC/WADA levels of hemoglobin, HH, erythropoietin, thyroid stimulating hormone, free thyroxine (T3/T4), and any other hormones.”
Effectually, the IWF has introduced different, context-specific eligibility criteria for athletes based on gender. The organization has applied more stringent requirements for participation in the Men’s and Women’s divisions of weightlifting, while criteria for the new Open Gender division are comparatively lax.
Some transgender athletes may still compete in Men’s or Women’s weightlifting but will face more restrictions if they wish to do so. Transgender athletes who were previously able to compete in the category with which they identify may no longer be able to do so and may have no avenue of recourse available to them.
The IWF’s policy announcement did not contain practical administrative specifics regarding the Open Gender division, such as the type of barbell athletes would use in competition, weigh-in stipulations, etc. Barring an announcement from the IOC, the Open Gender division will not be hosted at the 2024 Olympic Games.
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