World swimming’s governing body FINA has decided to ban transgender swimmers from elite competition from today.
The ban would effectively bar transgender women from competing in women’s events around the world.
The majority of FINA members supported a new “gender inclusion policy” during a meeting on Sunday that will permit only the swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 to participate in women’s events.
“This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It’s what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” James Pearce, who is the spokesperson for FINA president Husain Al-Musallam, told The Associated Press.
“They’re not saying everyone should transition by age 11, that’s ridiculous. You can’t transition by that age in most countries and hopefully, you wouldn’t be encouraged to. Basically, what they’re saying is that it is not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage.”
Pearce also went on the confirm that there are currently no transgender women competing in elite levels of swimming.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has lowered its recommended minimum age for starting gender transition hormone treatment to 14 and some surgeries to 15 or 17 but the age of 12 is considered way too young.
The members voted 71.5% in favor of the proposal after hearing presentations from three specialist groups — an athlete group, a science and medicine group, and a legal and human rights group — that had been working together to form the policy following recommendations given by the International Olympic Committee last November.
The IOC has always urged shifting the focus from individual testosterone levels and calling for evidence to prove when a performance advantage existed.
The new 24-page policy for FINA also includes a proposal for a new “open competition” category.
The organization said it was 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.”
The issue of trans right and whether FINA will introduce a ban on transitioned swimmers reached fever pitch when in March, Lia Thomas made history in the United States as the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship, the 500-yard freestyle.