The International Olympic Committee on Saturday said that it was setting up a rights committee chaired by a prominent former UN commissioner to advise on issues including transgender athletes.

Speaking in Tokyo after a meeting of the IOC's executive board, president Thomas Bach said, the committee would be a “key instrument to help the IOC to meet our human rights responsibilities with a more strategic approach than we could do so in the past”.

The panel will be chaired by former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein and will include six to nine additional members to be named next year.

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“One of the issues where we will already be asking this advisory committee to help us... concerns the transgender policy of the IOC and the Olympic movement, where very complicated issues have to be addressed and human rights play a central role,” Bach said.

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There have been heated discussions in recent years about the inclusion of transgender athletes in the Olympics and sporting authorities were criticized for basing eligibility on testosterone levels.

And while the committee will offer advice on a range of rights issues, Bach said, it would be limited to “our spheres of work,” adding, “We will not pretend that the IOC or the Olympic games can solve human rights issues beyond our sphere of work.”