The International Swimming Federation (Fédération internationale de natation – FINA) approved a policy protecting women’s sports from male athletes – unless the male “transitioned” to live as a girl before age 12 or beginning puberty, “whichever is later.”
FINA members voted 71.5% in favor of the new “Policy on Eligibility For the Men’s And Women’s Competiton [sic] Categories,” the organization announced in a press release. With 209 national member groups, the aquatics federation oversees international swimming, water polo, diving, artistic swimming, high diving and open water swimming events.
The organization said that men’s and women’s competition categories ensured “equal opportunity for both male and female athletes to participate and succeed in the sport, including through the equal representation in its programs and competitions of athletes of both biological sexes.”
The new policy was developed by a working group which included an athlete group, a science and medicine group, and a legal and human rights group. FINA also said it would support the development of “open events,” separate from men’s and women’s competitions that would accommodate transgender-identified athletes.
The policy also states, “Female-to-male transgender athletes (transgender men) are eligible to compete in FINA competitions and to set FINA World Records in the men’s category.” Women who believe they are men must sign “assumption of risk form” to compete in water polo and high diving.
The eligibility policy was released right before the newly launched National Women’s Sports Week, June 20-26, promoted by the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX on June 23, 2022.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that barred discrimination on the basis of sex in education, and it is credited with a huge increase in girls and women participating in sports programs in elementary and secondary schools and at the collegiate level.
The news from FINA means that swimmers like Lia Thomas, who was born and grew up male – but “identifies” as a woman, will not be eligible for international women’s events, such as the Olympics.
After competing for the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s swimming team for three seasons, Thomas began taking testosterone suppressants and female hormones in 2019. He then switched to the women’s team, breaking records and eventually winning the NCAA women’s 500-yard freestyle championship race.
Riley Gaines is a female swimmer who tied with Thomas for fifth in the NCAA 200-yard freestyle championship. An outspoken critic of allowing Thomas to compete against real women, she applauded the FINA policy.
Gaines told Fox News’ Dana Perino:
It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I think this is kind of the first large governing body that has prioritized fairness in women’s sports, and so while it’s not everything, it’s definitely a bold first step and a step in the right direction.”
Cate Campbell, an Australian swimmer who won six Olympic medals, including three gold, also supported the decision. She addressed the meeting of FINA members that voted on the legislation, showing her support.
She said her role in producing the guidelines “may injure, infuriate and potentially alienate people from an already-marginalised trans community.” But she stated:
That men and women are physiologically different cannot be disputed. We are only now beginning to explore and understand the origins of these physiological differences and the lasting effects of exposure to differing hormones.
Women, who have fought long and hard to be included and seen as equals in sport, can only do so because of the gender category distinction. To remove that distinction would be to the detriment of female athletes everywhere.
Save Women’s Sports, which supports keeping biological males out of girls and women’s sports, tweeted that the new guidelines did not go far enough. The organization wants to keep all biological males out of girls and women’s sports.
Drawing the line at puberty is not a winning solution. Males who "transition prepuberty" are still males. #SaveWomensSports
— Save Women's Sports (@SaveWomensSport) June 20, 2022
Save Women’s Sports is joining with IWF and other groups to celebrate National Women’s Sports Week at a rally June 23 in Washington, D.C. Other sponsors for the event include The Heritage Foundation, Family Policy Alliance, Turning Point Action, Women’s Liberation Front, and Alliance Defending Freedom.
Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith and Selina Soule, Connecticut track athletes who lost opportunities and places to male athletes competing in girls events, are speaking at the rally. Other speakers include Riley Gaines, former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Save Women’s Sports Founder Beth Stelzer, and Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America.
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Photo from Twitter.