The World Federation of Swimming on Sunday approved the new “gender inclusion” policy after 71.5% of FINA’s member federations voted in favor of it at FINA’s 2022 Extraordinary General Congress.
The new gender inclusion policy, due to take effect on June 20, 2022, states that male-to-female transgender athletes will only be eligible to compete in the women’s categories in FINA competitions if they are under the age of 12 before they Reach level two on the Puberty Tanner Scale.
The policy also states that athletes who have previously used testosterone as part of female-to-male sex-affirming hormone treatment can only compete in women’s events if the total use of testosterone has been less than a year, but the treatment does not occur during puberty and serum testosterone levels return to pre-treatment levels.
As a result of the vote, FINA said it would set up a new working group to develop events in open categories for athletes who do not meet the governing body’s eligibility criteria for men’s or women’s categories.
FINA oversees aquatic competitions in swimming, water polo, diving, artistic and open water swimming and high diving.
“We must protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we must also protect competitive fairness in our events, particularly in the women’s category of FINA competitions,” said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam. “FINA will always welcome every athlete. Creating an open category means everyone has the opportunity to compete at an elite level. That has never happened before, so FINA has to lead the way. I want that all athletes feel.” involved in order to be able to develop ideas in this process.”
In November 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released its Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations, saying that no athlete should be disqualified from competing based on accepting an advantage based on their gender and dismissed the notion that a testosterone proxy was sufficient to be excluded from the women’s category.
A few months later, in January 2022, the International Federation of Sports Medicine and the European Federation of Sports Medicine Associations issued a joint statement contesting parts of the IOC’s position.
FINA said it then formed a working group to “consider the best available statistical, scientific and medical evidence on gender differences in athletic performance and any associated gender advantage of men” and to use the information to develop eligibility criteria for transgender people – Identify athletes.
The working group consisted of an athletes group, which FINA said included transgender athletes and coaches, a science and medicine group, and a legal and human rights group.
The debate about transgender women in swimming came under the spotlight when University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who started on the school’s men’s swim team in 2017, eventually joined the UPenn women’s team in 2020.
At the time of their transition in 2019, the NCAA required that transgender athletes receive hormone replacement therapy for one year in order to be eligible to compete.
In February, 16 members of the University of Pennsylvania swim team sent a letter to the university and the Ivy League urging them to consider the NCAA’s new entry guidelines for transgender athletes, which would prevent Thomas and other transgender athletes from competing to participate, not to question. In the letter, they argued that Thomas had an “unfair advantage” and said they supported her gender switch out of the pool, but not necessarily in it.
Despite the backlash, Penn Athletics and the Ivy League continued to support the transgender swimmer, and over 300 current and former swimmers signed an open letter defending their competitiveness.
A swimmer on the women’s team, Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle event in March.