Fina bans transgender athletes from competing in women’s events


Fina bans transgender athletes from competing in women’s events
2022-06-20 04:09 PM
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(Sports news) Swimming world governing body Fina has voted to stop transgender athletes who have undergone male puberty to compete in women’s elite races. They have also decided to introduce an ‘open’ category for swimmers whose gender identity is different from that with which they were born in. The new policy received 71% votes from 152 Fina members and was described as "only a first step towards full inclusion" for transgender athletes. 

According to a 34 page policy document, it says that  male-to-female transgender athletes could compete in the women's category - but only "provided they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 [which marks the start of physical development], or before age 12, whichever is later". The decision was made in an extraordinary general congress at the ongoing World Championships in Budapest. This means that transgender athlete Lia Thomas will not be allowed to compete in the female category at the Paris Olympics.

In an interview, Brent Nowicki, the governing body's executive director said “Fina's approach in drafting this policy was comprehensive, science-based and inclusive, and, importantly, Fina's approach emphasised competitive fairness.” Fina president Husain Al-Musallam said the organisation was trying to "protect the rights of our athletes to compete" but also "protect competitive fairness".

He said: "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."

Speaking to BBC Sport, former Great Britain swimmer Sharron Davies said “Four years ago, along with 60 other Olympic medallists, I wrote to the IOC and said 'Please just do the science first' and no governing body has done the science until now. That is what Fina has done. They've done the science, they've got the right people on board, they've spoken to the athletes, and coaches. Swimming is a very inclusive sport, we love everyone to come and swim and be involved. But the cornerstone of sport is that it has to be fair and it has to be fair for both sexes. 

“Sport by definition is exclusionary - we don't have 15-year-old boys racing in the under-12s, we don't have heavyweight boxers in with the bantamweights, the whole reason we have lots of different classes in the Paralympics is so that we can create fair opportunities for everybody," she said. “So that is the whole point of having classifications in sports and the only people who were going to be losing out were females - they were losing their right to fair sport."

In contrast, an LGBTQ advocacy group called 'Athlete Ally' called the policy “discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 IOC principles". Anne Lieberman, the group's director of policy and programmes said “The eligibility criteria for the women's category as it is laid out in the policy polices the bodies of all women, and will not be enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete looking to compete in the women's category.” 

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