Swimming: an “open category” where transgender people can compete will be created

Swimming: an “open category” where transgender people can compete will be created

The question has divided the sports world for years: should transgender athletes be allowed to compete in the category of their choice? The International Swimming Federation (Fina) has decided by announcing the creation of an “open category” where transgender athletes can compete, its president Husain Al-Musallam announced on Sunday.

“I don’t want an athlete to be told that he cannot compete at the highest level,” Al-Musallam told an extraordinary congress of the body held during the World Championships from Budapest. “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 controversy had grown in the spring with the coronation, in the United States, of Lia Thomas, at the university championships. Born Will 23 years ago, this American won the NCAA championship 500-yard freestyle in Atlanta, more than a second and a half ahead of the second-placed swimmer. Her detractors felt that having competed as a man in the past, Lia Thomas enjoyed an unfair physiological advantage.

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.

“Listen to science”

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.

Last year, the International Olympic Committee issued 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 of the members, Dr. Michael Joyner. “Some of the advantages that men gain at puberty are structural and are not lost with hormone suppression,” 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, 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 community of swimmers (…) but also to stand here and say (…) Listen to science “, she said.

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