FINA, the governing body for international swimming, banned nearly all biological males from competing in women’s sports in a new eligibility policy Sunday.
The new “gender inclusion policy” requires that male athletes hoping to compete in a women’s competition transition and experience no puberty symptoms before the age of 12, the 24-paged policy states. The policy, which is slated to take effect Monday, states that athletes must have testosterone levels steadily below 2.5 nmol/L.
If an athlete intentionally has testosterone levels beyond that level, he may face “retrospective disqualification” and a period of ineligibility from competing, according to the policy.
“Classifying athletes on the basis of sex is necessary to meet FINA’s goals for female Aquatics athletes and the women’s competition category,” the policy said. “FINA’s eligibility standards for the women’s category are narrowly tailored so that they can achieve those goals without unnecessarily limiting participation by gender-diverse athletes.”
FINA announces new policy on gender inclusion 👇https://t.co/tOcoTKz8WK
— FINA (@fina1908) June 19, 2022
There is a proposed “open competition policy” that is setting up “a new working group that will spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to set up this new category,” the document said.
The members voted 71.5% in favor of the policy after hearing presentations from a working group consisting of three separate specialist groups that included athletes, scientists and human rights groups, according to a FINA press release. The “Athlete Group” argued that “competitive fairness” must be the governing body’s goal and pointed to fewer opportunities given to female athletes, while the “Science Group” determined that biological sex is a “key determinant” of athletic performance.
The human rights side, consisting of sex discrimination experts, approved FINA’s “commitment” to limiting women’s sports on the basis of sex, according to the policy.
Biological females identifying as male are allowed to continue competing in men’s competitions, the policy said. Otherwise, teams are restricted solely on the basis of biological sex.
FINA President Husain Al-Musallam, said every athlete will be permitted to compete “at an elite level” due to the open category policy, according to the release. (RELATED: ‘Disappointed’ And ‘Frustrated’: Female Swimmer Says Trans Athlete Lia Thomas Takes Away Opportunities For Women)
“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. This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.”
James Pearce, spokesperson for Al-Musallam, said that the new policy will protect women athletes from being dominated by a male athlete, the release reported.
“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.”
Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner celebrated the new policy for its fairness and protection of women athletes.
“It worked! I took a lot of heat—but what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period,” Jenner said.
It worked! I took a lot of heat – but what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period. https://t.co/qqZq7gnt6g
— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) June 19, 2022
This policy effectively bans University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male, from competing in the women’s competition. Thomas gained national attention after repeatedly dominating the swimming competition against the female competitors by winning the 500 free event at the NCAA Women’s Championships by 1.75 seconds on March 17.
Sixteen female teammates of Thomas’ wrote a letter to UPenn and Ivy League officials urging they not take legal action against new NCAA rules requiring athletes to prove their testosterone levels to be within the sport’s approved range, which would ultimately block their transgender teammate from competing with them. One teammate pointed to Thomas going from ranking #462 in the men’s competition to #1 in the women’s.
“Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female,” the letter said, the Post reported. “If she were to be eligible to compete against us, she could now break Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete.”