Transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in the Olympic Games and other international events without first undergoing sex reassignment surgery, the International Olympic Committee has said..

Medical officials with the IOC told The Associated Press on Sunday that they had changed the policy to adapt to current scientific, social and legal attitudes on transgender issues.

The guidelines are designed as recommendations, not rules or regulations, for international sports federations and other bodies to follow and should apply for this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"I don't think many federations have rules on defining eligibility of transgender individuals," Dr Richard Budgett, the IOC medical director, said.

"This should give them the confidence and stimulus to put these rules in place."

Under the previous IOC guidelines, approved in 2003, athletes who transitioned from male to female or vice versa were required to have reassignment surgery followed by at least two years of hormone therapy to be eligible to compete.

Now, surgery will no longer be required, with female-to-male transgender athletes eligible to take part in men's competitions "without restriction".

Meanwhile, male-to-female transgender athletes will need to demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below a certain cut-off point for at least one year before their first competition.

"It is necessary to ensure, insofar as possible, that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition," the IOC said in a document posted on its website that outlines the guidelines.

"The overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition."

"To require surgical anatomical changes as a precondition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights," it added.

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Source: Associated Press