Swimming: creation of an “open category” where transgender people can compete

Swimming intends to become “the first sport” to set up an “open category” to allow transgender athletes to compete separately, announced Sunday in Budapest Husain Al-Musallam, president of the International Federation (Fina).

• Read also: New controversy in the United States after the historic victory of a transgender swimmer

• Read also: Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas wins US college championship

“I don’t want an athlete to be told he can’t compete at the highest level,” Al-Musallam told an extraordinary congress of the body held during the World Championships of swimming.

“I will set up a working group to create an open category during our competitions. We will be the first federation to do so”.

The Fina decision comes as swimming has been rocked by a controversy over American transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.

Lia Thomas, a 22-year-old born male student, in the spring became the first transgender swimmer to win a college title in the spring, in the women's category.


Lia Thomas, a 22-year-old born male student, in the spring became the first transgender swimmer to win a college title in the spring, in the women’s category.

The 22-year-old student, who was born male, had in the spring become the first transgender swimmer to win a university title in the spring.

Her victory in mid-March in the 500 meters final had sparked a wide debate, her detractors believing that having competed as a man in the past, Lia Thomas enjoyed an unfair physiological advantage.

“Inclusivity” Policy

At its congress, Fina adopted a new “inclusivity” policy, which will effectively exclude many transgender swimmers from elite women’s swimming.

Brent Nowicki, Fina’s chief executive, said the organization was determined to maintain separate competitions for men and women.

FINA “recognizes that some individuals may not be able to compete in the category that best matches their legal gender alignment or gender identity,” he added.

The men’s competition, on the other hand, would be open to all. But athletes who were born male and became female will only be able to compete in women’s Fina categories, or set world records, if they became male before reaching puberty.

“Structural” advantages

Last year, the International Olympic Committee set out guidelines on the issue, while asking federations to develop their own “sport-specific” rules.

Fina had appointed three committees, one made up of medical experts, the other of lawyers and the last of athletes, to examine the question. The medical committee found that men who became women retained advantages.

“Even with suppressing hormones, the sex benefits will be retained,” said one member, Dr.r Michael Joyner.

“Some of the advantages that men gain at puberty are ‘structural’ and are not lost with the suppression of hormones,” said another member, Dr.D Sandra Hunter of Marquette University in Milwaukee.

“This includes things like bigger lungs and hearts, longer bones, bigger feet and hands.”

As for the swimmers, the Australian Cate Campbell, quadruple Olympic champion took the floor to defend this position.

“My role is to stand here today and say to transgender people that we want them to be part of the greater swimming community…but also to stand here and say… ) + Listen to science +”, she declared.


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