Lia Thomas restricted from women’s swimming events, FINA proposes new category of competition

The world’s swimming governing body has voted to restrict transgender athletes like Penn swimmer Lia Thomas from competing in women’s events and will consider creating an “open competition” category in a membership vote on June 19th.


WATCH the news report on it:

The members of FINA voted 71.5 percent in favor of a policy that requires transgender swimmers to have completed their transition by the age of 12 in order to compete, according to the Associated Press. A total of 152 national federations have voting rights. The vote is applicable to all events starting June 20th. A portion of the 24-page policy included a proposal for an “open competition” category.

“I do not want any athlete to be told they cannot compete at the highest level,” FINA president Husain Al-Musallam declared. The organization stated it is setting up “a new working group that will spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to set up this new category,” per the AP.

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The ruling has the most immediate impact on Penn swimmer Lia Thomas. In an earlier interview from March 2022, Thomas had stated that she had “ambitions to compete beyond college” and was looking forward to participate in the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials. In March Thomas emerged as the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history by winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle. Thomas originally competed on Penn men’s team before making the transition to compete as a woman for the first time in 2021-22. At the time Thomas passed NCAA competition standards after more than two years of testosterone suppression therapy.

The new policy also restricts NCAA swimmers after the organization said in January that it would be relying on the decisions of national and international bodies.

The vote was held at FINA’s extraordinary general congress on June 19th at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary. Members reviewed presentations from three expert groups that worked together to develop the policy. They are composed of an athletes’ group, a scientific and medical group, and a legal and human rights group.

The new pathway follows recommendations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued last November that urged a shift away from focusing on the individual levels of testosterone to requiring evidence to prove a performance advantage. The IOC has declared that no athlete should be excluded on the basis of “an unverified, presumed or perceived unfair competitive advantage due to their sexual variation, physical appearance and/or transgender status.”

The governing bodies are tasked with regulating their own sports and establishing their policies regarding the participation of transgender athletes.

Last week the cycling governing body has updated its rules to enact stricter limits that will require transgender riders to wait longer in order to compete in women’s events.

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