Trans swimmers banned from competing in women’s elite events by sport's governing body

19 June 2022, 17:00 | Updated: 19 June 2022, 19:22

Under the new policy, trans competitors must have completed their transition by the age of 12 to compete in women's races (file image)
Under the new policy, trans competitors must have completed their transition by the age of 12 to compete in women's races (file image). Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Swimming’s world governing body has voted to stop trans athletes taking part in women’s races if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.

Under a new policy voted on today by Fina, swimming’s world governing body, competitors must have completed their transition by the age of 12 in order to compete in women’s competitions.

The move was backed by 71 per cent of Fina’s 152 members.

The governing body will also aim to set up an ‘open’ category for swimmers whose gender identity is different from their birth sex.

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Fina’s new policy will come into effect from tomorrow.

Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies said the decision gave her ‘pride’ for the sport. She has been an advocate for equality and fairness in sport and has repeatedly spoken out agains trans swimmers in women’s races.

She wrote: “I can’t tell you how proud I am of my sport @fina & @fina_president for doing the science, asking the athletes/coaches and standing up for fair sport for females. “Swimming will always welcome everyone no matter how you identify but fairness is the cornerstone of sport.”

Scientific experts who advised the Fina panel concluded: “there will be persistent legacy effects that give male-to-female transgender athletes (transgender women) a relative performance advantage over biological females.

“A biological female athlete cannot overcome that advantage through training or nutrition.

“Nor can they take additional testosterone to obtain the same advantage, because testosterone is a prohibited substance under the World Anti-Doping Code.”

Former UK championship swimmer Karen Pickering posted online: “The FINA transgender policy has been passed by a majority vote by commission members. Based on science and fairness no male who has gone through puberty will be eligible to compete in women’s FINA events or break a Women’s FINA World Record.

“Science proves a retained advantage of height, longer limbs, bigger heart, etc brought on by male puberty regardless of suppression of testosterone after much care and thought for transgender athletes who may not be able to compete in category they feel their gender ID aligns too but competitive fairness to women's category must be protected.

“In addition for eligibility into the women's category the swimmer must show proof they haven’t taken blockers after the age of 12.

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“I was at the FINA congress for the presentation, discussion and vote and i can vouch for the care and empathy displayed for any athletes who wont now be able to compete in the category their gender ID may align to.

“The science shows that this is one of the few occasions in sport where inclusion and fairness are not compatible.”

The issue was thrown into the spotlight by American swimmer Lia Thomas.

In March she became the first trans swimmer to win the highest US national college title, the women’s 500-yard freestyle.

Hundreds of people signed letters of support for Lia but there has been opposition from other athletes and organisations who have raised concerns about trans competitors competing against biological women.

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