TOP STORIES The World Swimming Organization effectively banned transgender women from...

The World Swimming Organization effectively banned transgender women from competing in women’s competitions.


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University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Leah Thomas competes in the NCAA swimming and diving championships in March. Her success has been the subject of controversy.

John Bazemore/AP

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John Bazemore/AP

University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Leah Thomas competes in the NCAA swimming and diving championships in March. Her success has been the subject of controversy.

John Bazemore/AP

FINA, the world governing body for swimming, has voted to ban transgender women from competing in women’s swimming competitions.

The vote – with 71.5% approval at the 2022 FINA Extraordinary General Congress in Budapest – was the latest salvo in an ongoing fight over whether trans athletes should compete according to their gender identity or gender assigned at birth.

“We must protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we must also protect the integrity of competition at our events, especially in the women’s category at FINA competitions,” said FINA President Hussein Al Musallam. said in a statement.

Under politicstransgender women must show that “they did not have any part of male puberty after Tanner Stage 2 or until age 12, whichever comes later”, effectively disqualifying them from competing in the women’s category. Tanner Stage describe the physical changes that occur to people during puberty.

FINA stated that gender and sex-related traits should be used to determine eligibility criteria due to the “performance gap” that occurs between males and females during puberty.

“Without qualifying standards based on biological gender or gender-related traits, we are unlikely to see biological women in finals, podiums or championship positions; risk of injury,” the rules say.

The group said it developed the policy in consultation with sports, scientific and legal experts.

The announcement was met with strong criticism from some transgender advocacy groups.

Ann Lieberman, Policy and Program Director for Athlete Ally, an organization that advocates for LGBTQI+ equality in sports, called politics “discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” and contrary to the guidelines of the International Olympic Committee.

“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as set out in the All Women’s Police Authority 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. .

The Human Rights Campaign stated the decision was “a blatant attack on transgender athletes who were working to enforce a long-standing policy that allowed them to participate for years without issue.”

Last year the International Olympic Committee new guide released allowing individual sports to set the rules and waive eligibility based on testosterone levels.

The debate about fairness and inclusion in swimming and other sports continues after swimmer Leah Thomas’ record-breaking season. A transgender swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania has been accused of having an unfair advantage in women’s competition.

A number of Republican governors in states including South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arizona recently signed laws requiring transgender athletes in public schools to compete according to the gender on their birth certificates.

FINA has said it may also develop an “open” category in future swimming competitions for people who do not meet the criteria for either men’s or women’s events.

“FINA will always be glad to every athlete. Creating an open category will mean that everyone will have the opportunity to compete at the elite level,” added Al-Musallam.

A spokesperson for Al Musallam told The Associated Press that transgender women do not currently participate in elite swimming competitions.

The new policy takes effect on Monday.

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