The international swimming federation, FINA, voted Sunday to restrict transgender women from competing in women’s swimming. 

FINA is the governing body recognised by the International Olympic Committee to administer and regulate competitive international water sports. 

The new policy bans swimmers, who transitioned after 12 years old, from competing in women’s events. It also bans those who cannot prove they “have not experienced any part of male puberty.”

The policy, which was approved by 71.5% of FINA’s members, would also look to create an open category in competitive swimming in which “an athlete who meets the eligibility criteria for that event would be able to compete without regard to their sex, their legal gender, or their gender identity.”

According to FINA President Husain Al-Musallam, “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 at FINA competitions.”

He continued, “FINA will always welcome every athlete. The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level.”

Just.Equal Australia: The Idea Trans Women Have An Unfair Advantage in Sport is a Myth

Sally Goldner, spokesperson of LGBTQ advocacy group Just.Equal Australia, believes this is unacceptable.

In a statement, Goldner said, “The decision to isolate trans women to their own lane at the pool means effectively they cannot compete at elite level because they will be competing against themselves.”

Goldner went on to say that, “Various groups in society have faced exaggeration, myths and moral panics, and the idea trans women have an unfair advantage in sport is just another of these.

“We call on FINA to re-examine the decision and consider the broader impact on the lives and hopes of trans people around the globe.

“We call on anyone in any situation, including other sporting bodies, to always consult with trans people when making decisions about our issues and our lives.”

Policy Not Enforceable Without Violating Athletes’ Privacy and Human Rights

Anne Lieberman, director of policy and programs at US-based LGBTQ sports advocacy organisation, Athlete Ally, stated that the new policy is not “enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete looking to compete in the women’s category.”

Trans Campaigner at Equality Australia tweeted, “Banning swimmers who are trans is discrimination. None of the research on this has been done on elite athletes. FINA have made this decision bc of the misogynistic hate campaign directed at Lia Thomas by the anti-trans lobby. Her career has been ruined by this decision.”

The policy comes three months after US-American swimmer Lia Thomas made history after winning the NCAA 500m freestyle title and became the first transgender athlete to win a US college swimming championship.

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