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Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., speaks Feb. 22, 2024, during the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP) Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., speaks Feb. 22, 2024, during the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP)

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., speaks Feb. 22, 2024, during the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2024, at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP)

Grace Abels
By Grace Abels March 1, 2024

Tuberville’s claim that Olympics decided ‘men can box women’ misses the mark

If Your Time is short

  • Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., was referring to a USA Boxing policy change that allows trans athletes to compete under strict conditions. USA Boxing said it oversees national competitions, but does not dictate the rules for the Olympics. 

  • Each sport at the Olympics is managed by an international federation that would create a transgender athlete policy. The federation that oversaw boxing lost its recognition in 2023.

  • A temporary group organized by the International Olympic Committee is overseeing boxing at the 2024 Olympics, but the current rules do not specify whether trans athletes would be eligible to compete.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, the gloves were off. 

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., talked about transgender athletes at the Olympics during a session called "No Woke Warriors." 

"The Olympic Committee has decided this year coming up that all the Olympic sports can make their own decisions to let men play in women's sports," the retired Auburn University football coach said Feb. 22. "Well, the first one decided the other day, that the boxing committee decided this year that men can box against women in the Olympics." 

The audience gasped.

But did his claim hit the target? Has an international boxing committee for the Olympics changed its policy regarding transgender athletes? The short answer is no — a U.S. boxing group did. 

The international group that currently oversees Olympic-level boxing does not have an official policy regarding the participation of transgender athletes. A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee told PolitiFact that its rules regarding transgender athletes are unchanged from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and registration in men and women’s boxing categories is based on what gender is listed on a participant’s identifying documents, such as a passport. 

It is possible for people who change their gender to successfully apply for a U.S. passport that reflects that change. 

But none of this is new. A handful of transgender or nonbinary athletes have competed at the Olympic level, and none in boxing. We found no news reports that any transgender women have qualified for this year’s Olympics in boxing, or were on the USA Boxing team.  

On Feb. 1, Tuberville introduced a bill that would prohibit the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee from recognizing national sports governing bodies that allow transgender women to compete in amateur athletic competitions that are "designated for females, women, or girls."

National boxing group requires surgery for trans women to box

A Tuberville spokesperson told PolitiFact that his CPAC comments referred to a policy from USA Boxing, the national governing body of Olympic-style amateur boxing.

USA Boxing in 2022 established a new transgender policy. It said minors under 18 must compete according to their "birth gender."

For athletes age 18 and older, transgender women — people who were assigned the male sex at birth but who identify as women — are permitted to compete in the female category under four conditions: 

  • They have completed gender reassignment surgery. 

  • They have had documented quarterly hormone testing for a minimum of four years after surgery.

  • They "must demonstrate" that their total testosterone level has been below a certain threshold for at least 48 months prior to the first competition. 

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  • The athlete’s testosterone level must remain below a certain threshold throughout the "period of desired eligibility."

Similar requirements for surgery and hormone levels apply to transgender men. 

Testosterone monitoring in female athletes has been employed for many years at the Olympic level to regulate transgender athletes’ participation. Athletic governing bodies see it as a way to mitigate any unfair advantages, though some people argue it unfairly discriminates against intersex athletes or cisgender women with high testosterone levels. 

USA Boxing helps athletes compete at several international Olympic qualifying events, governed by Olympic-level rules. But USA Boxing is a national governing body, not international.

USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee told PolitiFact that USA Boxing "does not have any authority regarding which sports are allowed to participate in the Olympic Games and the rules by which they participate."

Olympics rules for transgender athletes are made by international groups in each sport

The 2024 Summer Olympics will take place in Paris starting in July. The Olympics are organized by the International Olympic Committee. The IOC does not dictate the rules or eligibility requirements for each sport it oversees — that responsibility is left to international federations.

In 2021, the IOC released new guidance for sporting bodies that choose to develop criteria around transgender athletes; it is not mandatory for international federations to follow. 

Some international governing bodies have issued their own guidelines limiting the participation of transgender female athletes. But, which tracks transgender athlete policies, notes that most international federations have "no known policy." 

Very few openly transgender and nonbinary athletes have competed at the Olympic level. 

So what about boxing? It’s complicated.

The amateur sport used to be governed by the International Boxing Association, until the IOC suspended it in 2019 over issues related to funding, leadership and judging integrity. (The IOC fully revoked the group’s recognition in 2023.)

In the group’s absence, an IOC task force organized boxing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which took place in 2021 because of the pandemic.

The IOC then established the Paris 2024 Boxing Unit to run the qualifying events and competition in Paris. In April and June 2023, the unit published its event regulations and medical rules, neither of which mention transgender athletes’ eligibility. 

An IOC spokesperson told PolitiFact "there has been no change with regard to people with sex variations and different gender identities in the rules for Tokyo 2020 and for Paris 2024."

We did not find an explicit policy regarding the participation of transgender athletes. The Tokyo rules were taken largely from the rulebook of the suspended International Boxing Association, which stated that "gender tests may be conducted" as a part of athlete medical examinations. We were unable to get clarity about that rule’s meaning, but no such rule was included in 2024.

An IOC spokesperson said that registration in the men or women’s boxing categories are "confirmed in accordance with the gender shown" on required identifying documents like a passport or refugee identification document. It is possible to change one’s gender description on U.S. passports, but the spokesperson did not explicitly respond to PolitiFact’s follow-up questions about whether a transgender athlete who has changed how their gender appears on their passport would be allowed to participate in an Olympic boxing competition in the category that aligns with that gender. 

PolitiFact could find no rule prohibiting it, but the IOC did not answer our questions about whether it would be allowed.

Our ruling

Tuberville said that the Olympic boxing committee "decided this year that men can box against women in the Olympics."

Tuberville told PolitiFact he was referring to a 2022 policy change made by USA Boxing, which oversees the sport in the United States. USA Boxing sends athletes to international qualifying competitions, but does not make the rules for those competitions or for the Olympics. The recent policy change applies nationally in the United States, not internationally as Tuberville said. 

Based on the information provided to us by the International Olympic Committee, it remains unclear whether transgender women would be allowed to compete in the women’s boxing category at the Olympics. 

That uncertainty leaves open the possibility that there is an element of truth here, but we did not find evidence that backs up Tuberville’s overall claim. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Email interview with Morgan Campbell, Senior Contributor at CBC Sports, Feb. 26, 2024

Email interview with Hannah Eddins, Press Secretary for Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Feb. 26, 2024

Email interview with Marco Dalla Dea, Communications Manager for the Paris Boxing Unit, Feb. 27, 2024

Email interview with Sarah Teetzel, Professor of Kinesiology and Recreation Management at the University of Manitoba, Feb. 27, 2024

Email interview with the International Olympic Committee Press Office, Feb. 27-29, 2024

Email interview with Mike McAtee, Executive Director of USA Boxing, Feb. 29, 2024

The Pink News, "Congressional Republicans introduce bill to ban trans athletes from US Olympic team," Feb. 6, 2024

LGBTQ Nation, "Congressional Republicans introduce bill to ban trans women from the Olympics," Feb. 5, 2024

YouTube, "FULL SPEECH: Senator Tommy Tuberville Addresses CPAC in DC 2024," Feb. 22, 2024

TransAthlete, "Olympics," accessed Feb. 28, 2024

NBC Sports, "Five U.S. boxers qualify for Olympics at Pan American Games," Oct. 26, 2023

USA Boxing, "Boxers Qualified to Paris," accessed Feb. 29, 2024

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, "Tuberville Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Men from Competing in Women’s Olympic Sports," Feb 1, 2024

United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, "Member Organizations," accessed Feb. 28, 2024

USA Boxing, "Home page," accessed Feb. 28, 2024

USA Boxing, "History of Amateur Boxing," accessed Feb. 28, 2024

USA Boxing, "Compliance Policies," accessed Feb. 28, 2024

The New York Times, "Trans Swimmer Revives an Old Debate in Elite Sports: What Defines a Woman?" Feb. 18, 2022

Reuters, "World governing body bans transgender women athletes," March 23, 2023

USA Boxing, "Four Team USA boxers qualify to Paris 2024 Olympics," Oct. 27, 2023

USA Boxing, "Olympic Qualification,"accessed Feb. 27, 2024

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Olympics, "Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination in Olympic Sport," Nov. 2021

Olympics, "IOC-Framework-Fairness-Inclusion-Non-discrimination-2021.pdf," 2021

NPR, "Transgender track and field athletes can't compete in women's international events," March 24, 2023

The Athletic, "Lia Thomas asks CAS to overturn World Aquatics’ policy for transgender swimmers," Jan. 26, 2024

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