World Swimming Organization Restricts Trans Women Athletes from Competing
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MARCH 17: Transgender woman Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania talks to a reporter after winning the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championshipon March 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

World Swimming Organization Restricts Trans Women Athletes from Competing

FINA has voted to approve a new policy restricting most transgender athletes from participating in women’s swimming competitions.

On Sunday at the FINA Extraordinary General Congress 2022, 71.5% of FINA’s member federations voted to approve the new “gender inclusion” policy.

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” said FINA’s president, Husain Al-Musallam.

According to the new policy, which will be in effect on June 20, male-to-female transgender athletes will only be eligible to compete in women’s categories in FINA competitions if they transition before the age of 12 or before reaching stage two on the puberty Tanner Scale.

Due to the apparent “performance gap” that occurs between males and females during puberty, FINA stated it was essential to use sex and sex-related factors to set qualifying criteria.

The policy reads: “Without eligibility standards based on biological sex or sex-linked traits, we are very unlikely to see biological females in finals, on podiums, or in championship positions; and in sports and events involving collisions and projectiles, biological female athletes would be at greater risk of injury.”

According to the group, the policy was developed with the help of athletes, scientists, and lawyers.

So far, some transgender activist groups have strongly objected to the announcement.

According to Anne Lieberman, director of policy and programs at Athlete Ally, the approach is “discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” and goes against IOC recommendations.

“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as it is laid out in the policy police the bodies of all women and will not be enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete looking to compete in the women’s category,” Lieberman said.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the decision is a “blatant attack on transgender athletes who have worked to comply with longstanding policies that have allowed them to participate without issue for years.”

Last year, the International Olympic Committee issued new guidelines allowing individual sports to choose their own rules and moving away from testosterone levels as a criterion for eligibility.

Swimming and other sports have been the center of a debate over fairness and inclusion in recent years following the success of swimmer Lia Thomas.

The transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer has been accused of gaining an unfair advantage in the women’s competition.

Several Republican governors, including South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Arizona, have recently signed bills requiring transgender athletes in public schools to compete according to their birth certificates’ gender.

FINA said it might also develop an “open” category in future swimming competitions for people who don’t meet the criteria for either the men’s or women’s events.

“FINA will always welcome every athlete. The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level,” Al-Musallam added.

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