One of the most influential athletic federations in the world has taken a strong stance against transgender athletes. It has caused ripples across the sport world, and some are afraid it will bring about even more changes.
International competitive swimming's governing body announced a policy that allows only athletes who have transitioned prior to the age 12 to participate in elite international swimming competitions.
FINA's decision reflected the "performance gap" between biological males, and females in puberty.
The statement reads: "Without eligibility criteria based on biological sexual sex or sex linked traits, it is very unlikely that we will see biological females on podiums or in championship positions."
The policy also proposes a new category of open competition, where athletes would be able "to compete without regard to sex, legal gender, or gender identity."
FINA stated that they came to this decision after consulting scientists and policymakers, but it still caused shockwaves across the swimming world. USA Wrestling, the International Rugby League and USA Wrestling have already announced similar policies. Other governing bodies will likely follow their lead.
FIFA, the governing body of soccer, and World Athletics (the international governing body for track and field events) announced a review to their transgender policy.
Schuyler Bailar, transgender athlete, said that the FINA policy was "extreme."
"It's one of the most extreme policies I have ever read. It builds on the discrimination we're seeing in trans people," Bailar said. Bailar was the first openly transgender swimmer to compete in NCAA Division 1 competition, and the first transman to compete in NCAA Division 1 sports, according to ABC News.
This decision could have a negative impact on athletes such as Lia Thomas. Thomas' record-breaking season at the women’s swim category set off an international firestorm. Thomas was recruited to the University of Pennsylvania men’s swim team. He competed for them for three seasons. Thomas began transitioning in 2019, and joined the women’s team for the 2021-2022 season.
Thomas was the first transgender person to win a NCAA Division 1 National championship earlier this year. She set Ivy league records that season and rose in the women's rankings significantly compared to her performance in men's.
Thomas spoke with ABC News in May, her only interview on television.
Thomas stated that trans women participating in women's sport does not pose a threat to women's overall sports. "Transwomen are a small minority of athletes, and we haven’t seen any major wave of transgender women dominate."
Thomas stated that she had always hoped to compete in the Olympic Trials. Thomas is now prohibited from realizing her Olympic dreams due to a policy change.
Thomas stated that the new FINA release was deeply disturbing in a statement to ABC News. It is discriminatory, and will only harm all women."
Natalie Fahey, a former swimmer at Southern Illinois University, was the first openly trans woman to compete in NCAA. Fahey did not break any records, unlike Thomas. Her races were also less controversial than Thomas.
"After I had transitioned, I was firmly in the middle." Fahey stated that he didn't set any records when he came in. "I competed only at a conference. But certainly, the fact that Lia is better than me, weighs into this."
Fahey said that it was important for her to be able to swim as an adult woman.
Champion Women was founded by Nancy Hogshead Makar, three-time Olympic Gold medallist. This non-profit organization advocates for gender equality in sport for girls and women. She stated that she supports open competition.
She stated that trans women are women but that biology is important in a few areas, and that women's sport is one of those places.
Bailar claims that the policy will have an enduring impact on trans youth beyond sports.
Bailar stated that most people participate in sports to have fun, learn cooperation, have a team and have peer mentorship. This [policy] polices all women, because you need to know which trans girls to exclude. You enforce the policing and control of women's bodies when you do this.