International Swimming Federation decides to ban transgender athletes from women’s elite competitions

The governing body of the world of swimming approved a new gender inclusion policy on Sunday after 71.5% of FINA member unions voted in favor of it at the 2022 extraordinary general convention of FINA.

The new gender mainstreaming policy, which is due to take effect on June 20, 2022, says that male-to-female transgender athletes will only be able to compete in the FINA category for women if they move before the age of 12 or reach the second stage of the Tanner age.

The policy also states that athletes who have previously used testosterone as part of a gender-specific hormone therapy will only be able to participate in women’s competitions if testosterone has been used for less than a year in total. occurs during puberty and serum testosterone levels return to pre-treatment levels.

As a result of the vote, FINA announced that it would set up a new working group to develop open category competitions for athletes who do not meet the eligibility criteria for the men’s or women’s categories by the governing body.

FINA monitors water competitions in swimming, water polo, diving, art swimming and open water swimming and diving.

“We must protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we must also protect the integrity of competitions at our events, especially in the women’s category at FINA,” said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam. “FINA is always welcome for every athlete. Creating an open category means everyone has the opportunity to compete at the elite level. This has never been done before, so FINA needs to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel involved in the process of developing ideas.”

In November 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) published a framework for justice, inclusion and non-discrimination based on gender identity and gender differences, which states that no athlete should be excluded from competitions if they are presumed to have an advantage on the basis of gender. and rejected the view that the testosterone proxy server was sufficient to exclude women from the category.

Several months later, in January 2022, the International Federation of Sports Medicine and the Federation of European Sports Medicine Associations issued a joint position challenging some of the IOC’s positions.

FINA stated that it had responded by setting up a working group to “take into account the best available statistical, scientific and medical evidence on gender differences in sport and the associated male benefits” and to use this information to establish eligibility criteria for transgender athletes. .

The group consisted of a group of athletes, which, according to FINA, included transgender athletes and coaches, a group on science and medicine, and a group on law and human rights.

The debate over transgender women’s swimming came to the fore when Lia Thomas, a swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania who started school in the men’s swimming team in 2017, finally joined UPenn’s women’s team in 2020.

During his transition in 2019, the NCAA insisted that transgender athletes receive one year of hormone replacement therapy to compete.

In February, 16 members of the University of Pennsylvania’s swimming team sent letters to the university and the Ivy League asking them not to challenge the NCAA’s new policy of participation for transgender athletes, which would prevent Thomas and other transgender athletes from competing. In the letter, they claimed that Thomas had an “unfair advantage” and that he supported his gender transition from the pool, but not necessarily in it.

Despite the backlash, Penn Athletics and the Ivy League supported the transgender swimmer, and more than 300 current and former swimmers signed a public letter defending their ability to compete.

As the women’s national swimmer, Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win the NCAA Division I title after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle in March.

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