Athletes who have had sex change now eligible

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Transsexuals were cleared Monday 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 recognized 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 effect starting with the Athens
Olympics in August.

The IOC had put off a decision in February, saying more time was
needed to consider all the medical issues.

Some members had been concerned whether male-to-female
transsexuals would have physical advantages competing against

Men have higher levels of testosterone and greater muscle-to-fat
ratio and heart and lung capacity. However, doctors say,
testosterone levels and muscle mass drop after hormone therapy and
sex-change surgery.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said the situation of
transsexuals competing in high-level sports was "rare but becoming
more common."

IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch said no specific sports
had been singled out by the ruling.

"Any sport may be touched by this problem," he said. "Until
now, we didn't have any rules or regulations. We needed to
establish some sort of policy."

Until 1999, the IOC conducted gender verification tests at the
Olympics but the screenings were dropped before the 2000 Sydney

One of the best known cases of transsexuals in sports involves
Renee Richards, formerly Richard Raskind, who played on the women's
tennis tour in the 1970s.

In March, Australia'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 opthamologist, was surprised by the IOC
decision and was against it. She said decisions on transsexuals
should be made on an individual basis.

"Basically, I think they're making a wrong judgment here,
although I would have loved to have that judgment made in my case
in 1976," she said.

"They're probably looking for trouble down the line. There may
be a true transsexual -- not someone who's nuts and wants to make
money -- who will be a very good champion player, and it will be a
young person, let's say a Jimmy Connors or a Tiger Woods, and then
they'll have an unequal playing field.

"In some sports, the physical superiority of men over women is
very significant."