World Swimming Organization bans transgender athletes from women’s competitions

World Swimming’s governing body effectively banned transgender women from women’s competitions starting Monday.

On Sunday, FINA members broadly adopted a new “gender inclusion policy” that only allows swimmers who transitioned under the age of 12 to compete in women’s events. The organization also proposed an “open competition category”.

“This does not mean that people are encouraged to transition at the age of 12. Scientists say that if you make the transition after puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” said James Pierce, who was told by a spokesman for FINA President Hussain Al Musallam.

“They don’t say everyone should go to 11, that’s ridiculous. You can’t get past that age in most countries, and hopefully you won’t be encouraged to do so. In essence, they say that people who have moved to a new level cannot compete without having an advantage.

Pierce confirmed that transgender women do not currently participate in elite swimming competitions.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has just lowered the recommended minimum age for starting sex reassignment hormone treatment to 14, and for some surgeries to 15 or 17.

The new 24-page FINA policy also proposes a new category of “open competition”. The organization said it is creating “a new working group that will spend the next six months looking for the most effective ways to create this new category.”

Pierce said the open competition will likely mean more events, but those details are yet to be worked out.

“No one knows exactly how it will work. And we need to include a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to understand how this will work,” he said. The open category is what will be discussed tomorrow.”

Members voted 71.5% at the organization’s Extraordinary General Congress after listening to presentations from three panels of experts – the Athletes’ Group, the Science and Medicine Group, and the Lawyers and Human Rights Group – who worked together to shape policy in accordance with these recommendations. by the International Olympic Committee last November.

The IOC has called for a shift in focus away from individual testosterone levels and demand for evidence to support performance benefits.

Criticism from some groups

“Deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” FINA’s new policy “is not in line with (IOC) principles of fairness, inclusiveness and non-discrimination based on gender identity and gender variation,” said Anne Lieberman of the nonprofit Athlete Ally. advocates for LGBTQ athletes, the statement said.

“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category set out in the policy (will) control the bodies of all women, and will not apply without a serious violation of the privacy and human rights of any athlete who wishes to compete in the women’s category,” Lieberman said.

FINA stated that it recognizes that “some individuals and groups may be uncomfortable using medical and scientific terminology associated with sex and gender-related traits, (but) some use of sensitive terminology is needed to be accurate about sex characteristics that justify separate competition. categories”.

Who is swimmer Leah Thomas?

In March, Leah Thomas made US history as the first transgender woman to win the NCAA 500-yard freestyle swimming championship.

Thomas said last month on ABC’s Good Morning America that she aspires to be an Olympic swimmer. a threat to women’s sports.

Thomas did not immediately respond to a message left at the University of Pennsylvania asking for comment.

Dr. Alireza Hamidian Jahromi, co-director of the Gender Affirmation Surgery Center at Temple University Hospitals in Philadelphia, said 12 is an arbitrary age.

“Where did those 12 come from?” he said. “That’s a certain age at which everyone should go through puberty, because that might not be the case.”

According to him, the age of puberty varies from person to person.

Hamidian Jahromi said the transition includes three stages: social, medical, hormone-related, and surgical. “Which of these three are they referring to? If the patient has undergone surgery by then, which is practically impossible,” he said.

Other sports are also looking into their rules regarding transgender athletes.

On Thursday, cycling’s governing body updated its eligibility rules for transgender athletes with stricter restrictions that will force riders to wait longer before they can compete.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has extended the transition period for low testosterone to two years and lowered the maximum allowable testosterone level. The previous transition period was 12 months, but the UCI has stated that recent scientific studies indicate that the “expected adaptation of muscle mass and muscle strength/strength” in athletes who make the transition from male to female takes at least two years.