International Swimming Federation votes to restrict transgender athletes from competing in elite women's water competitions

International Swimming Federation votes to restrict transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s water competitions

The World Swimming Governing Body approved a new policy of “gender inclusion” on Sunday, after 71.5 percent of FINA member federations voted in favor of the FINA Extraordinary General Congress 2022.

The new gender inclusion policy, due to take effect on June 20, 2022, says transgender athletes will only be eligible to compete in women’s categories at FINA competitions if they pass 12 years ago or before reaching the second stage of the Tanner Puberty Scale. .

Politics also says that athletes who have previously used testosterone as part of hormone treatment between women and men who affirm gender will be eligible to compete in women’s competitions only if testosterone has been used for less than a year in total and treatment does not take place during puberty and testosterone levels. in serum return to pre-treatment levels.

As a result of the vote, FINA announced that it will establish a new working group to develop open category events for athletes who do not meet the eligibility criteria of the governing body for the male or female categories.

FINA oversees water competitions in swimming, water polo, diving, artistic swimming and open and high jump.

“We need to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also need to protect the fairness of competition at our events, especially in the women’s category at FINA competitions,” said FINA President Hussein Al-Musalam. “FINA will always welcome every athlete. Creating an open category will mean that everyone will have the opportunity to compete at the elite level. This has not been done before, so FINA will have to lead. I want all athletes to feel involved in the possibility of developing ideas during this process. ”

In November 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued its Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination Based on Gender Identity and Gender Variations, saying that no athlete should be excluded from competition on the assumption that he has an advantage because of his gender. and rejected the idea that proxy testosterone was enough to exclude women.

A few months later, in January 2022, the International Federation of Sports Medicine and the European Federation of Sports Medicine Associations issued a joint statement of position disputing parts of the IOC’s position.

FINA says it has responded by forming a working group to “review the best available statistical, scientific and medical evidence on gender differences in sports performance and any related male-based benefits” and use the information to determine eligibility criteria for transgender athletes. .

The working group consisted of a group of athletes, which FINA says included transgender athletes and coaches, a scientific and medical group, and a legal and human rights group.

The IOC issued a statement to CNN on Monday, stating that “sports at the Olympic Games are governed by the International Federation (IF).”

It continued: “Regarding the eligibility criteria for competitions based on gender segregation, the Framework offers guidelines for international organizations, but this is not mandatory. A previous consensus statement issued by the IOC on eligibility for trans athletes and athletes with gender variation in 2015 was also non-binding for the IF.

“The IOC believes that sports bodies are in a good position to define the factors that contribute to performance advantages in the context of their own sport.

“They are also in a good position to set a threshold at which an advantage can become disproportionate, devise relevant criteria and develop mechanisms needed to compensate for a disproportionate advantage when it is determined to be present.

The debate over transgender women in swimming came to the forefront when University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who started in the school’s men’s swimming team in 2017, eventually joined the UPenn women’s 2020 team.

At the time of its transition in 2019, the NCAA required that transgender athletes have one year of hormone replacement therapy to be able to compete.

In February, 16 members of the University of Pennsylvania’s swimming team sent a letter to the university and the Ivy League asking them not to challenge NCAA’s new policy on transgender athletes that would prevent Thomas and other transgender athletes from competing. In the letter, they claimed that Thomas had an “unfair advantage” and said that they supported her gender transition outside the pool, but not necessarily in it.

Despite the reaction, Penn Athletics and the Ivy League continued to support the transgender swimmer, and over 300 current and former swimmers signed their names in an open letter defending her ability to compete.

As a swimmer in the women’s team, Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win the NCAA Division I title after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle race in March.

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