An advocacy group for LGBTQI+ people in sport, Athlete Ally, has condemned swimming’s international governing body FINA for their decision to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions.
FINA’s decision, the strictest by any Olympic sports body, was made during its extraordinary general congress after members heard a report from a transgender task force comprising leading medical, legal and sports figures.
The new eligibility policy for FINA competitions states that male-to-female transgender athletes are eligible to compete only if “they can establish to FINA’s comfortable satisfaction that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 (of puberty) or before age 12, whichever is later”.
The policy was passed with a roughly 71% majority after it was put to the members of 152 national federations with voting rights who had gathered for the congress at the Puskas Arena.
A statement by Athlete Ally said FINA’s new eligibility criteria for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations is discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 IOC principles.
“If we truly want to protect women’s sports, we must include all women,” they said in a post on twitter.
FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said FINA has to protect the rights of the athletes to compete.
“We also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” said Al-Musallam.
“FINA will always welcome every athlete. 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 new FINA policy also opens up eligibility to those who have “complete androgen insensitivity and therefore could not experience male puberty”.
Swimmers who have had “male puberty suppressed beginning at Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later, and they have since continuously maintained their testosterone levels in serum (or plasma) below 2.5 nmol/L.” are also allowed to compete in women’s races.
Former swimmer Sharron Davies, who won Olympic silver at the 1980 Games and has been a vocal campaigner for a more restrictive policy, welcomed the decision.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of my sport, FINA and the FINA president for doing the science, asking the athletes/coaches and standing up for fair sport for females. Swimming will always welcome everyone no matter how you identify but fairness is the cornerstone of sport.”
In March, Lia Thomas made history in the United States as the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship. She won the 500-yard freestyle.
Under these new rules, the PENN University swimmer would not be able to compete at international competitions if she makes it.
Last Updated on Jun 20, 2022