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

The new governing body for swimming approved the new “gender inclusion” policy on Sunday, after 71.5% of FINA member federations voted in favor of the 2022 FINA Extraordinary General Congress.

The new gender inclusion policy, which will take effect on June 20, 2022, states that transgender male-to-female athletes will only be able to compete in the female categories in FINA competitions if they make the transition before 12 p.m. years or before reaching the second stage of the Tanner scale of puberty.

The policy also states that athletes who have previously used testosterone as part of treatment with hormones that claim female to male gender will only be eligible to compete in female competitions if testosterone has been used for less than a year in total, the treatment did not. take place during puberty and serum testosterone levels return to pre-treatment levels.

As a result of the vote, FINA said it will set up a new working group to develop open category tests for athletes who do not meet the governing body’s eligibility criteria for male or female categories. .

FINA oversees water swimming, water polo, scuba diving, figure swimming and open water swimming and scuba diving.

“We need to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also need to protect competitive justice at our events, especially the women’s category in FINA competitions,” said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam. “FINA will always welcome all athletes. Creating an open category will mean that everyone has the opportunity to compete at an elite level. This has not been done before, so FINA will have to lead. I want all athletes to feel included so they can develop ideas during this process. ”

In November 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) published its Framework on Equity, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender variation, saying that no athlete should be excluded. of competition in the event of an advantage due to its gender. and rejected the idea that a testosterone proxy was sufficient to be excluded from the female category.

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

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

The working group consisted of a group of athletes, which according to FINA included transgender athletes and coaches, a science and medicine group, as well as a legal and human rights group.

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

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

In February, 16 members of the University of Pennsylvania swimming team sent a letter to the university and the Ivy League urging them not to challenge the new NCAA transgender athlete participation policies that would prevent Thomas and other transgender athletes competed. In the letter, they argued that Thomas had an “unfair advantage” and said they supported his gender transition out of the pool, but not necessarily into it.

Despite the backlash, Penn Athletics and the Ivy League maintained their support for the transgender swimmer, and more than 300 current and former swimmers signed their names in an open letter defending her ability to compete.

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

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