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Sports Scientist, Former Advisor to the International Olympic Committee
Senior Lecturer, Nottingham Law School

Date & Time

Friday Fri, 24 Jun 2022


Location (for BIC Venue, BIC Hybrid and BIC Cafe)

Bangalore International Centre
7, 4th Main Road, Domlur II Stage
Bengaluru, Karnataka 560 071 India
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+91 98865 99675 bic@bangaloreinternationalcentre.org

In November 2021, following a two-year consultation process, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released its Framework on ‘Fairness, Inclusion, and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations’. The Framework sought to provide guidance to Sport Governing Bodies (SGBs) to decide the eligibility of transwomen to participate in sports. IOC left it to individual SGBs to determine the existence of ‘disproportionate advantage’ (if any) for transgender athletes and accordingly decide the eligibility rules for a particular sport. The Framework was a departure from previous IOC guidance that had stipulated testosterone requirements for allowing transwomen to participate in female sports. The updated Framework was widely seen as promoting inclusion over other concerns such as safety and fairness.

Tokyo 2020 was the first Olympic games to witness participation from multiple transgender athletes. Various SGBs have attempted to review their transgender policies in line with the IOC Framework. In particular, the policies in swimming, cycling, and rugby have come under the scanner in recent months. SGBs and athletes have called upon the IOC to provide a stronger and more detailed framework. As sport wrestles with balancing fairness, inclusion, and safety, this discussion will throw light on the present status of medical research on ‘disproportionate advantage’, the usefulness of the IOC framework, the various alternatives before SGBs, and the ethics and the human rights implications of different approaches.

In this session we will explore the debate surrounding the participation of transgender athletes, especially in women’s sport, and the issues that arise at the intersection of gender identity, fairness and inclusion in sport.

In collaboration with The Sports Law & Policy Centre, Bengaluru

The Sports Law and Policy Centre, Bengaluru (SLPC) (www.sportslaw.in) is an independent non-profit think-tank focused on interdisciplinary research, scholarship, education and institutional support for public and private enterprises in areas relating to the legal, policy and ethical issues affecting amateur and professional sports in India. SLPC invites legal and sports policy experts, athletes, administrators, academics, sports marketers and journalists to discuss contemporary sports law, policy and society issues. Content from our sessions and initiatives can be accessed here – The Sports Law & Policy Centre, Bengaluru – YouTube. SLPC is housed at the Sports and Society Accelerator (Sports and Society Accelerator | Building India’s Sports Stack (sports-society.org)).


Joanna Harper

Sports Scientist, Former Advisor to the International Olympic Committee

Joanna Harper is the visiting fellow for transgender athletic performance at Loughborough University in England and a PhD researcher at the University. In the latter role she is part of a team that is undertaking three studies on the performance of transgender athletes. Two of the studies are laboratory-based studies of the capabilities of trans athletes, while the third is an online examination of athletic performance of trans athletes in selected sports. Ms. Harper was also the first author of a systematic review of hormone-based changes in non-athletic transgender women that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

She had previously published the first peer-reviewed study examining the performance of transgender athletes and has authored or co-authored several additional papers concerning transgender and intersex athletes. Ms Harper is the author of the Rowman and Littlefield book Sporting Gender: The history, science, and stories of transgender and intersex athletes.

Ms Harper has worked closely with several international and national sports-governing bodies as they grapple with the complex issues surrounding eligibility policy for transgender and intersex athletes, including the International Olympic Committee, World Athletics, and World Rowing. Ms Harper speaks frequently at international meetings and symposia on the topics of transgender and intersex athletes.

Ms Harper’s interest in the topic of transgender athletic performance grew out of her own gender transition and the subsequent speed loss that she encountered as a sub-elite distance runner. Prior to her late-life career change, Ms Harper worked for several years as a Medical Physicist. She has a master’s degree in medical physics and an undergraduate degree in physics, both earned at Western University in London Canada.

Seema Patel

Senior Lecturer, Nottingham Law School

Dr. Seema Patel is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University. Her research field is sports law, with specific focus on discrimination and the regulatory balance between inclusion and exclusion in competitive sport. Seema is an international expert on gender discrimination in sport, where she has offered extensive media commentary on the legal implications of gender eligibility rules. Her recent academic publications examine the regulatory gaps in the protection of athletes’ human rights in sport. Seema has been involved in sport policy in this field and she has also contributed to government consultation on inclusion and participation in sport.

Bhavya Dore


Bhavya Dore is a freelance journalist writing for various publications in India and abroad. She has written on culture, sports, the law, and gender. Her work has appeared in the BBC, Wired, ESPN, Al Jazeera, Religion News Service and other places. A recent story she wrote for Mint Lounge newspaper on India’s transgender athletes won a Likho award for LGBT-related reporting. She has also received awards for her reporting on child labour, science and technology and sports.

Bhavya Dore (@BhavyaDore) / TwitterBhavya Dore | LinkedIn