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Lia Thomas And other Trans Athletes Banned By FINA From Competing Against Women

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Lia Thomas And other Trans Athletes Banned By FINA From Competing Against Women

FINA, the international sports federation for swimming, has announced it’s changing its policies so that Trans women who went through male puberty can only compete in the organization’s women’s races if they’ve completed their transition by the age of 12. They will also have to prove to the federation that they have continuously suppressed their testosterone level. 

To accommodate Trans athletes, including Lia Thomas, FINA said they would open a category for them to compete against one another.

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The open category will see Trans athletes competing at events including Swimming World Cup, World Aquatics Championships, and World Swimming Championships. Notably, a working group has been set to spend the next 6months determining how the open category would operate. Sadly, this policy would prevent Lia Thomas from competing in the international events that would raise her standing in international swimming.  

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our event, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” FINA President Husain Al-Musallam [pictured] said in a press release

via AP

Lia had potentially landed herself a place at the Olympics, which she said in a recent interview that she would like to compete in the future. The athlete’s rise to the top of the women’s charts, though, has sparked an uproar across the United States, with many arguing that she has an unfair physical advantage over her competitors. The decision to ban Trans athletes from FINA was made during the federation’s extraordinary general congress as the world championship takes place in Budapest.

The FINA President added: “FINA will always welcome every athlete. The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level. This hasn’t been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.” 

via AP

In November, members of the organization had heard from a Trans task force comprising leading medical, legal, and sports figure to create guidance on transgender athletes. At the time, the International Olympic Committee urged the sports federation to shift their focus from individual testosterone levels and called for evidence to prove when performance advantages existed. 

Following the news, Olympic swimmer Jessica Hardy Meichetry thanked the organization for its decision.

Ross Tucker, the co-host of the Science of Sports podcast, also tweeted: “Thank you, FINA, for listening to women, your own swimmers, and coaches, and to science in creating a policy that respects women’s sport.”

Over time, Transgender rights have become a talking point as sports seek to balance inclusivity while ensuring no unfair advantage. The debate intensified after University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle in early 2022. She had swum for the Pennsylvanian men’s team for three seasons before starting hormone replacement therapy in spring 2019.

When Lia participated in NCAA, a wave of doctors suggested she and other trans female athletes will always have an unfair advantage in some sports because they cannot undo puberty when their biological male bodies are flooded with testosterone. 

via TODAY Sports
via Getty Images

They argued that one or even four years of hormonal therapy is not enough to reverse what happens to the male teenage body. But then, Lia shrugged off the concerns about her unfair advantage when she appeared on Good Morning America. She insisted some ‘cisgender’ women have more testosterone, bigger hands and feet, and are taller than their competitors. She also claimed she did not transition to perform better in the league.

“Trans people don’t transition for athletics. We transition to be happy and authentic and to be ourselves. Transition to get an advantage is not something that factors into our decisions,” she said. 

However, the news of FINA comes days after the International Cycling Union tightened rules for Trans athletes in a benchmark ruling. Trans competitors will now have to wait longer to compete after transitioning between genders under the UCI’s ruling, which doubled the period from 12 months to two years. The body also declared it’s halving the maximum testosterone level for trans women to compete in the female category. 

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