The governing body for world swimming has adopted a new policy that bans most transgender women from competing in women's events.
The new policy requires that only swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 are allowed to compete in women's events. The organization also proposed an "open competition category."
“This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It’s what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” James Pearce, who is the spokesperson for FINA president Husain Al-Musallam, told The Associated Press.
“They’re not saying everyone should transition by age 11, that’s ridiculous. You can’t transition by that age in most countries and hopefully you wouldn’t be encouraged to. Basically, what they’re saying is that it is not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage.”
Pearce told the AP there are currently no transgender women competing in elite levels of swimming. FINA is now creating a working group that will spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to set up a new open competition category.
“No one quite knows how this is going to work. And we need to include a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to work out how it would work,” he said. “So there are no details of how that would work. The open category is something that will start being discussed tomorrow.”
FINA members voted 71.5 percent in favor at the organization's extraordinary general congress after hearing presentations from three specialist groups – an athlete group, a science and medicine group and a legal and human rights group — that had been working together to form the policy following recommendations given by the International Olympic Committee last November.
Athlete Ally responded to the news in a statement.
“FINA’s new eligibility criteria for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations is deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 International Olympic Committee framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations,” said Anne Lieberman, Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally.
The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as it is laid out in the policy police the bodies of all women, and will not be enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete looking to compete in the women’s category.”