Reconciling fair play with athletes’ rights to inclusion in elite sport: A regulatory conundrum

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University of New Brunswick


The world is undergoing significant changes in how sex and gender are perceived, discussed, and understood. With contemporary legislation on human rights in sport becoming more scrutinized, and cultural parameters of sex and gender identity developing, sport governing bodies face a regulatory conundrum in reconciling athletes’ rights to inclusion with fair play. The construct of fair play, understood as rule adherence to binary gender for fairness in sport, undermines women athletes’ (non-binary) rights to inclusion in elite sport (Patel, 2021), despite concrete human rights frameworks (e.g., the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948) embedding gender rights. Shaped by Cunningham’s multi-level model, this study examines the IOC gender policies on non-binary athletes and reflects on the policies’ implications on inclusion and human rights. Drawing on kaleidoscope and organism metaphors, the study addresses the conundrum between fair play and inclusion by reconceptualizing the concept of fair play to reconcile with inclusion.