FINA, the world governing body for swimming, has voted to ban transgender women from participating 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 based on their gender identity or gender identity. their sex assigned at birth.
“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, in a statement.
Under the policy, transgender women must show that “they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later. “, a decision that effectively eliminates their eligibility to compete in the women’s category. Tanner’s stages describe the physical changes people go through during puberty.
FINA said it was necessary to use sex and sex-related traits to determine eligibility criteria because of the “performance gap” that appears between men and women during puberty.
“Without eligibility standards based on biological sex or sex-related traits, it is very unlikely that we will see biological women in finals, on the podiums or in championship positions; and in sports and events involving women. collisions and projectiles, biological female athletes would be at greater risk of injury,” the policy reads.
The group said it designed the policy in consultation with sporting, scientific and legal experts.
The ad was quickly criticized by some transgender advocacy groups.
Anne Lieberman, director of policy and programs at Athlete Ally, an organization that champions LGBTQI+ equality in sport, called the policy “discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” and contrary to International Olympic Committee guidelines.
“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as set out in the policy governs all women’s bodies and will not be enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete wishing to compete in the women’s category. “, said Lieberman. .
The Human Rights Campaign said the decision was a “flagrant attack on transgender athletes who have worked to comply with longstanding policies that have allowed them to compete for years without issue.”
Last year, the International Olympic Committee released new guidelines allowing individual sports to set guidelines and deviate from eligibility based on testosterone levels.
A debate over equity and inclusion in swimming and other sports is ongoing after swimmer Lia Thomas’ record-breaking season. The University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer has been accused of having an unfair advantage in the women’s category.
A number of Republican governors in states like South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arizona recently signed laws requiring transgender athletes in public schools to compete based on the gender listed on their birth certificates.
FINA said it may also develop an “open” category in future swimming competitions for people who do not meet the criteria for men’s or women’s events.
“FINA will always welcome every athlete. Creating an open category will mean everyone will have the opportunity to compete at an elite level,” Al-Musallam added.
A spokesperson for Al-Musallam told The Associated Press that there are currently no transgender women in elite swimming competitions.
The new policy goes into effect Monday.