The governing body of world swimming has effectively banned transgender women from participating in women’s events from Monday.
FINA members widely adopted a new “gender inclusion policy” on Sunday that allows only swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 to participate in women’s events. The organization also proposed an “open competition category”.
“This isn’t to say that people are encouraged to transition at age 12. It’s what the scientists say, if you transition after the onset of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” James Pearce, a spokesman for FINA President Husain Al-Musallam told The Associated Press.
“They don’t say everyone should switch at 11, that’s ridiculous. In most countries you can’t switch at that age and hopefully you won’t be encouraged to do so. What they’re saying is it’s not feasible for people who have switched to compete without having an advantage.”
Pearce confirmed that there are currently no transgender women competing in elite swimming levels.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health just lowered the recommended minimum age for starting sex transition hormone treatment to 14 years and some surgeries to 15 or 17 years.
FINA’s new 24-page policy also proposed a new “open competition” category. The organization said it was in the process of setting up “a new working group that will spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to set up this new category.”
Pearce told the AP the open competition would most likely mean more events, but those details are yet to be worked out.
“Nobody knows exactly how this is going to work. And we need to involve a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to figure out how it would work,” he said. “So there are no details on how that would work. The open category is something that will be discussed tomorrow.”
Members voted 71.5% in favor of the organization’s extraordinary general convention after hearing presentations from three specialist groups — an athletes group, a science and medicine group, and a legal and human rights group — who had worked together to shape policy according to the recommendations given by the International Olympic Committee last November.
The IOC urged to shift the focus from individual testosterone levels and call for evidence to prove when a performance benefit existed.
FINA’s “highly discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” new policy is “not consistent with the (IOC) framework on fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination based on gender identity and sex variations,” Anne Lieberman of Athlete Ally, a nun profit organization that advocates for LGBTQ athletes, said in a statement.
“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category, as set forth in the policy, will monitor the bodies of all women, and will be unenforceable without serious violation of the privacy and human rights of any athlete seeking to participate in the women’s category. said Lieberman.
FINA said it recognizes “that some individuals and groups may be uncomfortable using medical and scientific terminology related to sex and sex-linked traits (but) some use of sensitive terminology is needed to be precise about the sex characteristics that separate individual competition justify categories.”
In March, Lia Thomas made history in the United States as the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship, the 500-meter freestyle.
Thomas said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last month that she aspired to become an Olympic swimmer. She also countered those who say she has an unfair biological edge that ruins the integrity of women’s athletics, saying that “trans women pose no threat to women’s sports.”
The University of Pennsylvania did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Thomas.
Other sports have also explored their rules around transgender athletes.
On Thursday, the cycling governing body updated eligibility rules for transgender athletes with stricter limits that will force riders to wait longer before competing.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) increased the low testosterone transition period to two years and lowered the maximum accepted level of testosterone. The previous transition period was 12 months, but the UCI said recent scientific studies show that “the expected adjustments in muscle mass and muscle strength/power” in athletes who have made the transition from male to female take at least two years.