Sports · June 20, 2022

World swimming bans transgender athletes from participating in women’s events

The governing body of world swimming has effectively banned transgender women from competing in women’s events, starting Monday.

FINA members broadly adopted a new “gender inclusion policy” on Sunday that allows only swimmers who are past 12 years of age to compete in women’s events. The organization has also proposed an “open competition category”.

“This does not mean that people are encouraged to pass at age 12. That’s what scientists say, that if you pass after puberty starts, you have an edge, which is unfair,” said James. Pearce, who is the spokesperson for FINA president Husain Al-Musallam.

“They are not saying that everyone should pass by the age of 11, that’s ridiculous. You cannot pass that age in most countries and hopefully you would not be encouraged to do so. Basically, what they are saying is that it is not feasible for people who have moved on to compete without having an advantage. “

Pearce confirmed that there are currently no transgender women competing at elite levels of swimming.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health just lowered the recommended minimum age for starting gender transition hormone treatment to 14 and some surgeries to 15 or 17.

FINA’s new 24-page policy also proposed a new category of “open competition”. The organization said it was setting up “a new working group that will spend the next six months looking for the most effective ways to create this new category.”

Pearce said open competition would most likely mean more events, but those details have yet to be worked out.

“Nobody really knows how it will work. And we have to include a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to understand how it would work, “she said.” So there are no details on how it would work. The open category is something that will start to be discussed tomorrow. “

Members voted 71.5% in favor at the organization’s extraordinary general conference after hearing presentations from three groups of specialists – an athlete group, a science and medicine group, and a law and human rights group. – who had worked together to shape politics following the recommendations given by the International Olympic Committee last November.

The IOC urged to shift the focus away from individual testosterone levels and ask for evidence to show when there was a performance advantage.

Criticism from some groups

FINA’s new “deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” policy “is not in line with the (IOC) framework on equity, inclusion and non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender variation.” , Anne Lieberman of Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ athletes, said in a statement.

“The eligibility criteria for the female category as set out in the policy (will) be guarded over the bodies of all women and will not be enforceable without grossly violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete seeking to compete in the female category,” she said. Liebermann.

FINA said it acknowledges “that some individuals and groups may be uncomfortable with the use of medical and scientific terminology relating to sex and sex-related traits (but) use of sensitive terminology is needed to be accurate about sexual characteristics. which justify a separate category competition “.

Who is swimmer Lia Thomas?

In March, Lia Thomas made history in the United States as the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship, the 500-yard freestyle.

Thomas told ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​last month that he aimed to become an Olympic swimmer. She also challenged those who claim she has an unfair biological advantage that ruins the integrity of women’s athletics, saying “trans women are no threat to women’s sport”.

Thomas did not immediately respond to a message he left with the University of Pennsylvania seeking comment.

Dr Alireza Hamidian Jahromi, co-director of the Gender Affirmation Surgery Center at Temple University hospitals in Philadelphia, said 12 is an arbitrary age.

“Where did those 12 come from?” He said. “It’s a specific age where everyone should be past puberty, why might not that be the case?”

The age of puberty varies between people, he said.

Hamidian Jahromi said the transition involves three stages: social, hormone-involving medical, and surgical. “Which of these three do they mean? If the patient had had surgery at that time, which is next to impossible, “he told her.

Other sports have also looked into their rules on transgender athletes.

On Thursday, the cycling governing body updated its eligibility rules for transgender athletes with stricter limits that will force cyclists to wait longer before they can compete.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has increased the transition period from low testosterone to two years and lowered the maximum accepted testosterone level. 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” among athletes who have made the transition from male to female require at least two years.