FINA votes to restrict transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s water sports competitions

Swimming’s world governing body approved the new “gender inclusion policy” on Sunday after 71.5% of FINA’s affiliates voted in favor of FINA’s Extraordinary General Congress 2022.

The new gender inclusion policy, which is set to take effect on June 20, 2022, states that transgender male athletes will only be eligible to compete in the women’s categories in FINA competitions if they change before the age of 12 or before they reach phase two of puberty Tanner Scale.

The policy also says that athletes who have previously used testosterone as part of woman-to-man sex-confirming hormone therapy will only be eligible to compete in women’s competitions if the testosterone was used for less than a year in total, the treatment did not takes place during puberty and serum testosterone levels return to pre-treatment levels.

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

FINA oversees water sports competitions in swimming, water polo, diving, artistic swimming and swimming in open water and scuba diving.

“We need to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also need to protect competitive justice at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam. “FINA will always welcome any athlete. The creation of an open category will mean that everyone has the opportunity to compete at the elite level. This has not been done before, so FINA will have to take the lead. I would like, that all athletes feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process. ”

In November 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued its Framework on Justice, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination based on Gender Identity and Gender Variations, stating that no athlete should be excluded from the competition provided an advantage on the grounds of their gender and rejected the notion that a testosterone proxy was enough to be excluded from the female category.

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

FINA says it responded by forming a working group to “consider the best available statistical, scientific, and medical evidence regarding gender differences in sports performance and any associated male gender-based benefit,” and use the information to establish eligibility criteria for transgender athletes.

The working group consisted of an athlete group, which according to FINA included transgender athletes and coaches, a science and medicine group as well as a legal and human rights group.

How an Ivy League swimmer became the face of the debate over transgender women in sports
The debate over transgender women in swimming came into the spotlight when swimmer Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania, who started on the school’s men’s swimming team in 2017, joined the UPenn women’s team in 2020.

At the time of her transition in 2019, the NCAA required transgender athletes to have one year of hormone replacement therapy to be approved to compete.

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

Despite the backlash, Penn Athletics and the Ivy League maintained their support for the transgender swimmer, and over 300 current and former swimmers signed their names to an open letter defending her ability to compete.

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

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