Swimming’s world governing body, Fina, has voted to restrict transgender swimmers from competing in women’s elite events.
The organisation voted on the issue at an extraordinary general congress held during the World Championships in Budapest, where 152 Fina members cast their votes.
A total of 71 percent of voters voted to prohibit transgender athletes from competing in women’s elite races if they have gone through any part of the male puberty process. This means that transgender athletes must complete their transition by the age of 12 – i.e., have had male puberty suppressed by hormone blockers – in order to compete.
Rather of banning transgender women from swimming entirely, the governing body plans to create a ‘open’ category in competitions for anyone whose gender identity differs from their biological sex.
Fina members voted after hearing a report by a transgender task team that includes prominent professionals from medical, law, and sport. The organisation has been working on developing competition guidelines for transgender athletes for the past few months.
After Lia Thomas became the first openly transgender woman to win an NCAA Division I women’s swimming title earlier this year, the inclusion of transgender women in swimming became a subject of debate for many.
Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, argued earlier this year that sport cannot take a “one size fits all” approach to transgender inclusion, adding that sports organisations should be focused on “creating a fair competition.”
“Sport must be inclusive at the grassroots level; everyone must have access to sport,” he concluded. “When it comes to sports competition, we must ensure that it is fair.
“That means that you have to find out sport by sport, even discipline by discipline, where there is maybe an unfair advantage.”
Karen Pickering MBE, head of swimming at Ardingly College, discussed Fina’s decision in a post on Twitter in which she explained she was at the Fina congress for the presentation, discussion and vote on transgender policy.
Pickering commented: “I can vouch for the care and empathy displayed for any athletes who won’t now be able to compete in the category their gender ID may align to.”
Some of those in favour of excluding transgender athletes from women’s sports have claimed trans competitors have an unfair advantage.