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Swimming body FINA bans transgender athletes from women’s events


Transgender swimmers who did not transition before puberty have effectively been banned from competing in women’s events, the world swimming governing body announced on Sunday. The International Swimming Federation’s (FINA) new “gender inclusion policy” only allows swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 to compete in women’s events.

Members of FINA voted 71.5 percent in favor of the new policy after hearing from groups representing athletes, science and medical professionals, and legal and human rights experts.

They will also explore the option of an “open competition category.”

“FINA will always welcome every athlete,” FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said. “The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level. This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.”

The inclusion of transgender athletes has been a controverial topic in recent years.

Last year, the International Olympic Committee said no athlete should be excluded based on assumed advantages due to gender identity or sex variations.

FINA’s rules come months after University of Pennsylvania Swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming title in the 500-yard freestyle.

Thomas began her career on the men’s team as a freshman. Under FINA’s new rules, she would not be permitted to compete in international events.

“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as it is laid out in the policy (will) police the bodies of all women, and will not be enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete looking to compete in the women’s category,” Anne Lieberman of Athlete Ally said in a statement released Sunday.

Last week, the International Cycling Union (UCI) adjusted its rules for transgender athletes. Cyclists will now have to be on low testosterone for two years, up from 12 months. The UCI also lowered the maximum tolerance for testosterone.

Shannon Longworth:

Transgender women are now banned from competing in women’s events in international swim meets. That is, if they went through puberty as males.

Over the weekend, the International Swimming Federation approved a “gender inclusion” policy.

The policy includes trans athletes in women’s categories *if* they transitioned before the age of 12…or before they reach the second stage of puberty, according to a specific medical assessment.

This comes after lots of controversy and different stances from various federations.

The international Olympic Committee, in November of last year, said no athlete should be excluded based on assumed advantages due to gender identity or sex variations.

Earlier this year, the International Federation of Sports Medicine and European Federation of Sports Medicine Associations pushed back in a joint statement.

You might recall that all this unraveled as Lia Thomas–a University of Pennsylvania swimmer–entered the spotlight. She competed as a trans woman in women’s NCAA events as a senior…

As a freshman, she began her collegiate career on the men’s team.

Under this new ban, Thomas cannot compete in women’s international events.

The International Cycling Union has also updated its rules for eligibility, and trans women athletes will need longer transition periods on hormone therapy to participate.