Fina restricts transgender athletes from competing in elite women's competitions

Fina has proposed an open category for swimmers who do not meet the new requirements.

Picture: 123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG - Swimming's world governing body, Fina, has decided to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women's competitions after a vote passed with a 71% majority. The new policy states that male-to-female transgender athletes are eligible to compete only if they can prove they have not experienced any part of male puberty and must have completed their transition by the age of 12.

Fina has proposed an open category for swimmers who do not meet the new requirements.

The landmark decision was made during Fina’s extraordinary general congress at the world championships in Budapest on Sunday. Members heard a report from a transgender task force comprising leading medical, legal and sports figures.

The new ruling comes within a week of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, adjusting its racing and competition policy for transgender athletes, which will come into effect from 1 July. Under their new regulations, the period before a rider transitioning from male to female can compete has been doubled from 12 to 24 months.

The new Fina policy could have far-reaching consequences as other sporting codes may soon follow suit.

The new changes in these sports have caused debate in the sports fraternity and beyond. While those in opposition say transgender athletes have no clear advantage over athletes who were assigned female at birth, the proponents of the restrictions say they are protecting the purity of women’s sports.

"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," Fina President Husain Al-Musallam.

It remains to be seen whether transgender swimmers such as Lia Thomas or interest groups will take the matter up with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.