MELBOURNE – Australian Olympic gold medalist Emily Ziebom welcomed FINA’s decision to limit the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s swimming, saying the sport could now continue with certainty.
FINA decided at its extraordinary general congress (EGC) on Sunday after members heard a report from a working group on transgender people, including leading medical, legal and sports figures.
Five-time world champion Seebohm, who won a gold medal in the mixed relay for Australia at last year’s Tokyo Games, said the decision would encourage swimmers to stay in the sport.
“I am finally happy that we have a solution and we know where the sport is going and what we will do,” the 30-year-old told Sky News Australia on Monday.
“We just didn’t know what was going to happen, and when we just don’t know, it’s hard to dedicate ourselves entirely to our sport if we have no idea what direction it’s going.
“We can all move forward. We can all just go back to the sport we love … and know that we will enter the pool and it will be a fair, level playing field and that is what we want. “
Athlete Ally, an advocacy group for LGBTQI + people in sport, said FINA’s decision was “discriminatory” and “harmful”.
“If we really want to protect women’s sport, we must include all women,” they said in a Twitter post.
Transgender rights have become a major topic of conversation as sport seeks to balance inclusion with justice.
The debate intensified after University of Pennsylvania swimmer Leah Thomas became the first NCAA transgender champion in Division I history to win the women’s 500-yard freestyle earlier this year.
FINA said it would set up a working group to create an “open” category for them at some events as part of its new policy.
“Honest and safe”
Several top Australian swimmers have expressed concerns about the race against transgender athletes.
Four-time Olympic champion Kate Campbell told EGC’s FINA she supported the restriction of transgender athletes competing in women’s categories and called on people to “listen to science and experts”.
“Women who have fought long and hard to be included and seen as equal in the sport can only do so because of the distinction between the sexes,” Campbell said before delegates voted in favor of the ban.
“Removing that distinction would be to the detriment of women athletes everywhere.”
However, Madeleine Groves, a former national swimming champion who won a silver butterfly medal at the 2016 Rio Games, took an exception to Campbell’s comments and was a scathing decision by FINA.
“Are you okay with expelling an already marginalized group?” A real host, “said the 27-year-old Australian on social media.
“Shame on all those who supported this discriminatory and unscientific decision.”
The Australians won eight of the country’s nine gold medals at the Tokyo Basin.
The Australian Olympic Committee also supported FINA’s decision, saying the sport had a duty to ensure that participation was “fair and safe”.
“While inclusion must be respected, fairness in competition is a core value of the sport,” a spokesman said.
“FINA decided on the basis of swimming circumstances to strike this balance.”
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