Research Document on Sex, Gender and Inclusion in Elite Sport

Person seen from behind in yellow T-shirt with tennis racket on tennis court.
Sandra Meeuwsen and Asa Ekvall
Photo of dr. Sandra Meeuwsen and dr. Asa Ekvall

The 23rd of February, this meta-study for the Dutch Olympic Committee * Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) on evidence-based research into the correlation between sex, gender and sport, was launched by NOC*NSF. ESPRIT was asked to support NOC*NSF in mapping the international, highly polarized debate on gender inclusion in sport, to facilitate both scientifically validated, and consistently elaborated policy in Dutch elite sport competition.

The meta-study shows for instance, that there is little research on trans women and their presumed higher level of athletic performance. The few studies available, state there is no reason to exclude trans women who have undergone hormone replacement therapy from competing in the women’s category.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and many international sports federations, still tend to impose strict regulations on both trans women and women with an intersex condition, to allow them to compete in the women’s category. These regulations are mostly not based on evidence-based research but on what people think they know about trans women and women with high testosterone levels.

In general, this meta-study implies that the tradition of separating women and men in sports, based on the presumption that women are weak and need protection, needs to be reconsidered.  This binary structure is mainly based on beliefs and ideology around what it means to be a man or a woman and not on scientifically validated research.

You can download the full document down below.

Sandra Meeuwsen (Curaçao, 1966) obtained her Master's degree in philosophy in 1990 at Radboud University Nijmegen, graduating on Wittgenstein's Tractatus. At university, she discovered track and field running, later expanded to triathlon (1984-1997), in which she performed nationally on top 10 level and took up training and coaching. As of June 2022, Sandra holds the position of Scientific Director of the 'Erasmus Center for Sport Integrity & Transition' (ESPRIT), hosted by ESPhil.
dr. Åsa Ekvall
More information

Learn more about Erasmus Center for Sport Integrity & Transition (ESPRIT), visit their website.

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