Want to be swimming “the first sports” set up one “open category” where transgender athletes can compete, Husain Al-Musallam, president of the International Swimming Federation (Fina) announced in Budapest on Sunday, June 19.
“I don’t want an athlete to be told that he cannot perform at the highest level”Al-Musallam said at an extraordinary body convention held during the world championships. “I will set up a working group to create an open category during our competitions. We will be the first federation to do that.”
Aquatics Integrity Unit Members Elected, New Gender Inclusion Policy Adopted at FINA Extraordinary Congress in Budapest https://t.co/04Row3OLjf
—FINA (@fina1908) June 19, 2022
The Fina also stated in a press release on its website that this opening of a specific category for transgender athletes was voted for by more than 71% during this congress and that “this new gender inclusion policy will come into effect on June 20, 2022”† This policy will effectively exclude many transgender swimmers from elite female swimming.
Fina had appointed three committees, one made up of medical experts, the other lawyers and the last athletes, to investigate the matter. The medical commission found that men who became women retained benefits. “Even with suppressive hormones, the sexual benefits are preserved”said one of the members, Dr. Michael Joyner.
Some of the benefits men get during puberty are: “structural” and “are not lost with the suppression of hormones”said another member, Dr. 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, Australian Cate Campbell, four-time 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 larger community of swimmers (…) but also to stand here and say (…) ‘Listen to the science'”she said.
In mid-March, Lia Thomas, a 22-year-old born male student, became the first transgender swimmer to win a 500-yard college title in the United States. A success that had caused controversy, as opponents believed that after competing as a male in the past, Lia Thomas enjoys an unfair physiological advantage.
In an interview given on ABC’s Good Morning America in late May, she noted in particular that: “transgenders are not switching to sports”† “We’re about to be happy and authentic and (become) who we really are. Switching to gain an advantage is never something we factor into our decisions. Trans women pose no threat to sportswomen.”she persisted.
Lia Thomas, transgender swimmer, sends shockwaves through her sport | @phillutton78 https://t.co/rMXpXTTWBe
— The Sydney Morning Herald (@smh) March 19, 2022
After a transgender athlete’s first entry into the Tokyo Olympics, in weightlifting, this question is a headache for sports institutions. In November, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave the ball to every sport, demonstrating the lack of “scientific consensus on testosterone’s role in performance in all sports”†
The controversy is also political in the United States. Several conservative states have recently passed laws to block young transgender girls from entering women’s sports at school.