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Transgender women have effectively been blocked from elite swimming.

Transgender women have effectively been blocked from elite swimming

Swimming’s global governing body, FINA, voted to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions overnight.

The decision will require transgender women who want to compete in elite women’s events to prove that they haven’t experienced male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 – the start of physical development – or before age 12 (whichever is later).

However, it will work to create an “open” category for transgender athletes in some of FINA’s events.

The decision

Over 71% of member federations voted in favour of the new policy, with just 15% against the reforms.

FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said in a statement: “We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category.”

The context

The decision comes three months after Lia Thomas (pictured on the cover) became the first transgender woman to win a NCAA swimming championship in the U.S.

Her success at the U.S. college swimming level sparked international attention.

Under the new policy, Thomas would not be able to compete in FINA women’s events, including at the Olympics, which Thomas has previously said she hoped to qualify for.

Cate Campbell’s speech

Prior to voting for the policy, the FINA Congress heard from multiple speakers, including Australian Olympian Cate Campbell.

“Women, who have fought long and hard to be included and seen as equals in sport, can only do so because of the gender category distinction. To remove that distinction would be to the detriment of female athletes everywhere,” she said.

Campbell added that the policy “pays attention to inclusion, but prioritises fairness”.

Backlash

Equality Australia released a statement on Monday afternoon calling for FINA to review the policy.

“For a powerful international sporting body such as FINA to determine that only a particular type of woman can compete against other women sets a dangerous precedent,” Jackie Turner, Trans Equality Advocate at Equality Australia, said.

“This ban will have impacts on the human rights of all athletes, but it will pose specific and serious risks of harm to intersex women and effectively exclude most trans women from competing at an elite level in a sport they love.”

“We are faced with some very complex challenges – I believe that we will have a solution that will protect the competitive fairness of our competition, but sends a clear message to every single athlete: you are all welcome.” An excerpt from FINA President Husain Al-Musallam’s address to Congress.

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