The international governing body for competitive swimming has banned men who have gone through male puberty from competing against women, a move which will likely prevent high-profile trans swimmer Lia Thomas from joining the American women’s team in the Olympics.
FINA, the federation which oversees world swimming, announced on Sunday that it will only allow transgender swimmers who have not gone through male puberty to swim against women as well as plans to establish an “open category” for other athletes.
“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said in a statement, as reported by The Daily Mail.
The news drew attention to the fact that Thomas, who has gained notoriety for blowing away female competition after coming out as transgender and switching to the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team after competing for three years on the men’s team.
In an interview earlier this year, Thomas expressed a desire to compete as a woman in the Olympics and even to break records currently held by women.
The high-profile transgender athlete’s career has become emblematic of the outcry over transgender athletes in women’s sports, with some of the women Thomas has displaced in the collegiate swimming ranks crying foul.
The Mail noted that FINA’s announcement means that elite swimming is now officially the first sport to ban transgender athletes from racing against women.
“Without eligibility standards based on biological sex or sex-linked traits, we are very unlikely to see biological females in finals, on podiums on in championship positions,” the swimming body wrote.
“A biological female athlete cannot overcome that advantage through training or nutrition. Nor can they take additional testosterone to obtain the same advantage, because testosterone is a prohibited substance under the World Anti Doping Code,” it also stated.
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