The Rules Are Changing for Transgender Swimmers

World governing body restricts participation and plans an 'open' category
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2022 3:20 PM CDT
The Rules Are Changing for Transgender Swimmers
Austrian swimmers compete in the duet technical final of the artistic swimming event Sunday at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.   (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)

(Newser) – The governing body of world swimming has approved restrictions on the participation of transgender athletes in top competitions. Only athletes who have completed transitioning by age 12 will be allowed to compete, the BBC reports. The new rules received 71% of the vote Sunday from the 152 FINA members meeting at the world championships in Budapest, after a transgender task force that included medical, legal, and sports representatives presented its report on the issue. The policy, which AP calls effectively a ban, takes effect Monday.

"FINA's approach in drafting this policy was comprehensive, science-based, and inclusive, and, importantly, FINA's approach emphasized competitive fairness," said Brent Nowicki, the organization's executive director. The vote also gave a working group six months to create an open category in which transgender swimmer could compete in certain events, per ESPN. "The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level," said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam. Former college swimmer Lia Thomas, who has said she wants to continue competing, declined to comment on the policy change Sunday.

Sharron Davies, a British swimmer opposed to welcoming transgender swimmers to the top women's events, praised FINA "for doing the science, asking the athletes/coaches and standing up for fair sport for females." An LGBT advocacy group that has supported Thomas said the policy is "discriminatory, harmful, unscientific" in a tweet. The International Olympic Committee had made recommendations to FINA in November, and Athlete Ally said the policy changes are "not in line" with the stated principles. "If we truly want to protect women's sports, we must include all women," the advocacy group posted. (Read more transgender stories.)

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