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FINA votes to block transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s aquatics competitions

Swimming’s world governing body approved the new “gender inclusion” policy on Sunday, after 71.5% of FINA member federations voted in favor at the 2022 Extraordinary FINA General Congress.

The new gender inclusion policy, due to take effect June 20, 2022, states that male-to-female transgender athletes will only be eligible to compete in the female categories of FINA competitions if they transition before age age 12 or before reaching stage two on the Tanner Scale of Puberty.

The policy also states that athletes who have previously used testosterone as part of female-male gender-affirming hormone therapy will only be eligible to compete in women’s competitions if testosterone has been used for less than a year. altogether, treatment did not take place during puberty and serum testosterone levels returned to pre-treatment levels.

Following the vote, FINA said it would establish a new working group to develop open category events for athletes who do not meet the governing body’s eligibility criteria for men’s or women’s categories. .

FINA oversees aquatic competitions in swimming, water polo, diving, artistic swimming, open water swimming and high-level diving.

“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 the women’s category at FINA competitions,” said FINA President Husain. Al-Musallam. “FINA will always welcome every athlete. Creating an open category will mean that everyone will have the opportunity to compete at an elite level. This has never been done before, so FINA will have to lead the way. I want all athletes feel included in the ability to develop ideas during this process.”

In November 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released its Framework on Equity, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variation, stating that no athlete should being excluded from competition on the assumption of an advantage due to one’s gender. and dismissed the idea that a testosterone proxy was sufficient to disqualify them from the women’s category.

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

FINA says it has responded by forming a task force to “review the best available statistical, scientific and medical evidence regarding gender differences in athletic performance and any associated male advantage”, and use that information to establish criteria for eligibility for transgender athletes. .

The task force was made up of an athlete group, which FINA said included transgender athletes and coaches, a science and medical group as well as a legal and human rights group.

On Monday, the IOC released a statement to CNN that “sports at the Olympic Games are governed by the International Federations (IFs).”

He continued: “With regard to the eligibility criteria for gender-segregated competitions, the framework offers guidance to IFs without being mandatory. The previous consensus statement issued by the IOC on the subject of athlete eligibility trans and athletes with gender variations in 2015 was also non-binding for IFs.

“The IOC considers that sports bodies are well placed to define the factors that contribute to the performance advantage in the context of their own sport.

“They are also well placed to determine the threshold at which a benefit may become disproportionate, devise relevant criteria, and develop the mechanisms necessary to offset a disproportionate benefit when it is determined to be present.”

How an Ivy League swimmer became the face of the debate over transgender women in sports
The debate over transgender women in swimming was thrust into the spotlight when University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who started on the school’s men’s swim team in 2017, finally joined the team. UPenn Women’s in 2020.

When it transitioned in 2019, the NCAA required transgender athletes to have one year of hormone replacement therapy to be allowed to compete.

In February, 16 members of the University of Pennsylvania swim team sent a letter to the university and the Ivy League asking them not to challenge new NCAA transgender athlete participation policies that would prevent Thomas and other transgender athletes to compete. 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 have maintained their support for the transgender swimmer, and more than 300 current and former swimmers have signed 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 women’s 500-yard freestyle event in March.

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