MELBOURNE – FINA’s decision to restrict transgender athletes in elite women’s swimming has provided a plan for other sports to follow to balance justice with inclusion, said a senior medical official at the global governing body.
FINA made the decision on Sunday after its members heard a report from a working group on transgender people, including leading medical, legal and sports figures.
David Gerard, vice-chairman of the FINA Sports Medicine Committee, said this was the “best result” for the sport and its athletes and was supported by a stable process.
“I think FINA’s approach to this was very enlightening, very balanced, very informed,” New Zealander Gerard, a former Olympic swimmer, told Reuters on Monday.
“He recognizes the voice of the athlete, the scientific, objective evidence and the slightly more subjective (s) legal issues related to human rights, which were argued very strongly by the lawyers present.
“I hope this model is something that is being considered by other sports.
Proponents of transgender inclusion argue that not enough research has yet been done on the impact of transition on physical performance, and that elite athletes are often physically distinctive in each case.
Equality Australia called on FINA to review its new “trans-exclusion policy” and said the decision “will effectively exclude most trans women from elite-level competition in a sport they love”.
In FINA’s updated policy, transgender male athletes have the right to compete only if “they can establish … that they have not experienced any part of male puberty after Tanner’s stage 2 (puberty) or before the age of 12, which of the two is later. “
Gerard said FINA had enough evidence to support its decision, citing congressional experts on Sunday, who showed that 14-year-old male swimmers publish times that will win Olympic gold in women’s competitions.
“The critical moment here is the impact of male puberty,” he said.
“I would respectfully suggest that the transgender community look at the study, and the figures are unequivocally clear in the advantage that young men have over mature women in sports.
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.
Other sports have introduced policies that restrict transgender athletes from elite women’s competitions, including international rugby, cycling and Australian football.
However, the International Olympic Committee said in November that no athlete should be excluded from the competition on the basis of an alleged unfair advantage, leaving the decision to the sports federations.
“This is a problem we will have to deal with and the debate will continue,” Gerard said.
“But when it comes to justice and when it comes to safety, you have to draw a line in the sand.”
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