Starting Monday, the world swimming governing body, FINA, has effectively barred transgender women from competing in women’s events.
On Sunday, FINA members overwhelmingly approved a new gender inclusivity policy that allows only swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 to compete in women’s competitions.
“This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It’s what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” James Pearce, who is the spokesperson for FINA president Husain Al-Musallam, told The Associated Press.
An “open competition category” was also recommended in FINA’s new 24-page policy. The organization added that a new working group is expected to spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to set up this new category. The open competition will most likely result in future tournaments, although the organisation said that specifics are still being worked out.
After hearing presentations from three specialist groups — an athlete group, a science and medicine group, and a legal and human rights group — that had been working together to form the policy following recommendations given by the International Olympic Committee last November, the members voted 71.5 percent in favor at the organization’s extraordinary general congress.
The IOC recommended that the focus be shifted away from individual testosterone levels and that proof be provided to show when a performance advantage existed.
Lia Thomas was the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship, the 500-yard freestyle, in March, making history in the United States.
Thomas stated on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last month that she aspires to be an Olympic swimmer. She also refuted claims that she possesses an unfair biological advantage that jeopardizes the integrity of women’s sports, claiming that “trans women are not a threat to women’s sports.”
Other sports have looked into their policies regarding transgender athletes.
Cycling’s governing body changed its eligibility regulations for transgender athletes on Thursday, imposing tighter requirements that will force riders to wait longer to compete.