FINA Restricts Transgender Swimmers; Lia Thomas Banned from Women's Events Under New Standard
On June 19, the International Swimming Federation took a stand on transgender athletes the NCAA has refused to take.
Lia Thomas and many other transgender swimmers have been officially banned from competing in women’s events on the world stage.
According to YahooSports!, 71.5 percent of the sport’s governing body, known by its French acronym FINA, voted for the new policy.
That being the case, the decision is far from a full-on ban of transgender competition.
Specifically, the new policy dictates that transgender swimmers must “have completed their transition by age 12 to be able to compete.”
This does not mean that FINA supports early childhood transitioning, however.
“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, 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.”
Setting aside the moral and ethical implications that come with the permanent gender-transitioning of children below the age of consent, or even puberty, the science is not clear as to whether or not such therapies would in fact eliminate male biological advantages.
According to an August 2019 study from the British Medical Journal — one of the world’s best-known medical journals — “hormone therapy will not eliminate all the performance advantages of a prior male physiology.”
This makes sense, given how extensive male physical advantages are.
According to a Psychology Today from July 2012, when compared with women, men have increased muscle mass, in terms of absolute quantity and percentage of total body mass; denser, stronger bones, ligaments and tendons; increased cardiovascular reserves due to larger hearts and greater lung volume as well as greater average height by about six inches, among other characteristics.
Regardless, the new FINA rule applies to the controversial NCAA champion and transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, effectively banning him from competing in any FINA events.
Thomas, a 6’1″ male swimmer on the University of Pennsylvania women’s team, won the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Championship in both the 500-yard and 100-yard freestyle events in March. It was the end of his college swimming career, as Sports Illustrated reported.
Set to go into effect on Monday, the new policy applies to 152 national federations.
“No one quite knows how this is going to work. And we need to include a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to work out how it would work,” Pearce said.
“So there are no details of how that would work. The open category is something that will start being discussed tomorrow.”
As noted by The Associated Press, other sports governing associations — including cycling — are examining their rules regarding transgender athletes as well.
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