Fina, the world’s governing body for swimming, has voted to stop transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s competitions if they have gone through any part of the male puberty process.
The new policy requires transgender athletes to have completed their transition by the age of 12 in order to compete in women’s competitions.
Fina will also strive to create an “open” category in competitions for swimmers whose gender identity is different from their gender at birth.
The new policy, which was adopted with 71% of the votes of 152 Fina members, was described as “only the first step towards full inclusion” for transgender athletes.
The decision was made during an extraordinary general congress of the current World Cup in Budapest.
Earlier, Fina members heard a report from a working group on transgender people made up of leading figures from the worlds of medicine, law and sports.
“Fina’s approach to this policy has been comprehensive, scientifically sound and inclusive, and, importantly, Fina’s approach to emphasizing fair competition,” said Brent Nowitzki, executive director of the governing body.
Fina President Hussein al-Musalam said the organization was trying to “protect the rights of our athletes to compete”, but also “to protect the fairness of the competition”.
He said: “Fina will always welcome every athlete. Creating an open category will mean that everyone has the opportunity to compete at the elite level. This has not been done so far, so Fina will have to lead. I want all athletes to feel involved in the ability to develop ideas during this process. “
Former British swimmer Sharon Davis, who disputes the involvement of transsexuals in elite women’s swimming, said she was “proud” of her sport and Fina.
She thanked Fina “for doing science, asking athletes / coaches and upholding fair sports for women.” She added: “Swimming will always welcome everyone, no matter how you identify them, but justice is the cornerstone of the sport.”
However, Athlete Ally, an LGBT advocacy group that organized a letter in support of transgender American swimmer Leah Thomas in February, called the new policy “discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and incompatible with IOC 2021 principles.”
“If we really want to protect women’s sport, we must include all women.”it says in the group’s tweet.
Swimming follows cycling when the rules change
Fina’s decision follows move on Thursday by the UCIthe cycling governing body, to double the period of time before a rider switching from male to female can compete in women’s competitions.
The problem with swimming was ejected into the spotlight from the experience of the American Thomas.
In MarchThomas became the first known transgender swimmer to win the highest title at the American National College with a victory in the 500-yard freestyle for women.
Thomas swam for the Pennsylvania men’s team for three seasons before starting hormone replacement therapy in the spring of 2019.
She has since broken records for her university swimming team.
More than 300 colleges, the U.S. team and Olympic swimmers have signed an open letter in support of Thomas and all transgender and non-binary swimmers, but other athletes and organizations have expressed concerns about trance inclusion.
Some of Thomas’ teammates and their parents wrote anonymous letters in support of her right to transition, but added that it was unfair for her to compete as a woman.
USA Swimming has updated its policy for elite swimmers in February to allow transgender athletes to swim in elite competitions, along with criteria aimed at reducing any unfair advantage, including testosterone tests for 36 months before competitions.
Last year, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics in a category other than the one in which they were born.
What did the expert group say?
Dr. Michael Joyner, physiologist and leading expert in human performance
“Testosterone in male puberty changes the physiological determinants of human performance and explains gender-based differences in human work, which are considered clearly visible until the age of 12.
“Even if testosterone is suppressed, its productivity-enhancing effects will be preserved.”
Dr. Adrian Giuko, activist, researcher and lawyer
“The policy emphasizes that no athlete is excluded from Fina’s competition or Fina’s record-setting based on their legal gender, gender identity or gender expression.
“[The proposed open category] it should not become a category that complements existing levels of discrimination and marginalization of these groups.
“I see this policy as just the first step towards full inclusion and support for the participation of transgender and gender-sensitive athletes in water sports, and there is still much to be done.”
Dr. Sandra Hunter, Exercise Physiologist, specializes in gender and age differences in athletic performance
“Up to 14 years or more, the difference between boys and girls is significant. This is due to the benefits they experience due to the physiological adaptations of testosterone and the possession of the Y chromosome.
“Some of these physical benefits are structural in origin, such as height, limb length, heart size, lung size, and they will be maintained, even with the suppression or reduction of testosterone that occurs in the transition from male to female.
Summer Sanders, former Olympic and world swimming champion
“This is not easy. There must be categories – women, men and of course a category for trans women and trans men.
“Fair competition is a fortress and a key element of our community – this approach ensures the integrity of the existing sports process, in which millions of girls and women participate each year.”
One of the biggest debates in sports
The conversation about the inclusion of transgender women in women’s sports is divided into opinions both inside and outside the sports sphere.
Many claim that transgender women you don’t have to compete in women’s sport because of all the benefits it can retain – but others argue that sport needs to be more inclusive.
World Athletics President Lord Coe said the “integrity” and “future” of women’s sports would be “very fragile” if sports organizations misunderstood the rules for transgender athletes.
At the heart of the debate over whether transgender women athletes should compete in women’s sports involves the complex balance between inclusion, sports justice and safety – essentially whether trans women can compete in women’s categories without giving them an unfair advantage or a threat. from injuring competitors.
Trans women need to adhere to a number of rules in order to compete in specific sports, including in many cases lowering testosterone levels to a certain amount for a certain period of time before competing.
However, as highlighted in the Fina decision, there are concerns that athletes retain the advantage of going through male puberty, which is not solved by lowering testosterone.