Elite swimming bans transgender athletes from competing in women’s races

Former Olympic swimmer Sharon Davis has spoken of her ‘pride’ for the sport after international governing body FINA announced a ban on transgender athletes from the women’s race.

Elite swimming is the first sport in which transgender athletes are completely barred from women’s swimming races once they have passed male puberty, FINA announced on Sunday.

The International Sports Federation for Swimming is setting up an ‘open category’ that would separate transgender athletes to compete in their own class.

Transgender swimmers such as Leah Thomas, who currently competes in the women’s category at Swim Meet, have broken women’s records and many argue they have an unfair physical advantage over fellow competitors.

The decision was made during FINA’s Extraordinary General Congress during the World Championships in Budapest, when members heard a report from a transgender task force, which included prominent medical, legal and sporting figures.

British Olympian Sharon Davis MBE, who has advocated for equality and fairness in sport and has spoken out against transgender swimmers in the women’s race, tweeted the news from FINA.

She wrote: ‘I can’t tell you how proud I am of my sport @fina and @fina_president for doing science, asking athletes/coaches and standing up for fair play for women.

‘Swimming will always welcome everyone no matter how you identify with it but fairness is the cornerstone of the sport.’

His tweet was in response to his own post from Friday, which read: ‘Once a male has gone through puberty, there will always be a huge retained performance advantage and bone structure.

‘Why are we asking women with a known disadvantage to accept even before they start competing? Women are not men with low testosterone. Compete with your sex.’

Davis lost to gold in 1980 Moscow olympics For the East German swimmer Petra Schneider, who was later pinged doping Along with performance enhancing drugs including testosterone.

Elite swimming is the first sport to ban transgender athletes from running women’s races, even if they have gone through male puberty, the International Sports Federation for Swimming announced on Sunday. Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer is pictured

FINA President Hussein Al-Musallam announced the news on Sunday afternoon.

“I don’t want an athlete to be told they can’t compete at the highest level,” al-Musallam told a conference of his organization today.

‘I will set up a working group to establish an open range in our meetings.

‘We will be the first federation to do so.’

The new policy would require transgender competitors to complete their transition by age 12 to be able to compete in women’s competitions.

Former Olympic swimmer Sharon Davis MBE, who has advocated for equality and fairness in sport and has spoken out against transgender swimmers in the women's race, tweeted the FINA news

Former Olympic swimmer Sharon Davis MBE, who has advocated for equality and fairness in sport and has spoken out against transgender swimmers in the women’s race, tweeted the FINA news

Davies (pictured in June 2022) lost gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics to East German swimmer Petra Schneider, who was later pinged for doping with performance-enhancing drugs, including testosterone.

Davies (pictured in June 2022) lost gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics to East German swimmer Petra Schneider, who was later pinged for doping with performance-enhancing drugs, including testosterone.

The policy was passed with a 71 percent majority after members of the 152 national federations with voting rights gathered for Congress at Puskas Arena.

About 15 percent did not vote for a policy of eligibility in the men’s and women’s competition categories, while 13 percent did not.

Transgender rights have become a major topic of discussion as sports seek to balance inclusivity while ensuring that there is no unfair advantage.

The debate intensified after University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle earlier this year.

Thomas swam for the Pennsylvania men’s team for three seasons before starting hormone replacement therapy in the spring of 2019.

A wave of doctors suggested that Lia Thomas – and other trans female athletes – would always have an unfair advantage in certain sports because they could not undo puberty, when their biological male bodies were flooded with testosterone.

Last month, Thomas said that some ‘cisgender’ women, a term used to describe someone whose gender identity is the same as when they were born, have more testosterone, larger arms and legs. And they’re taller than their competitors – so why should he ban them when they’re not.

He said, ‘I don’t need anyone’s permission to be myself.

She also said that anyone who says she is not allowed to compete as a woman is transphobic, whether they support the right to transition or not.

‘You can’t go halfway and go “I support trans people but only up to a certain point.”

‘If you support transwomen and they’ve met all of the NCAA requirements, I don’t know if you can say anything like that.’

Lia Thomas has so far only participated in the American College Swim Meet, her last college event being in March 2022 at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), the governing body of US college sports.

But Thomas has since outlined his ambitions to compete in the Olympics. Speaking to ABC News in May, she said: ‘Swimming at the Olympic Trials has been my goal for a very long time, and I would love to see it.’

Under FINA’s ban, Thomas would no longer be able to compete in the women’s race, instead competing in the new ‘open category’ for transgender athletes.

The decision was made during FINA's Extraordinary General Congress during the World Championships in Budapest, when members heard a report from a transgender task force, which included prominent medical, legal and sporting figures.  Photo of swimmers in the women's 100m breaststroke semi-final on Sunday at the Budapest 2022 FINA World Championships

The decision was made during FINA’s Extraordinary General Congress during the World Championships in Budapest, when members heard a report from a transgender task force, which included prominent medical, legal and sporting figures. Photo of swimmers in the women’s 100m breaststroke semi-final on Sunday at the Budapest 2022 FINA World Championships

‘Trans women are not a threat to women’s sport.’

In response to Sharon Davis’ tweet celebrating the news, many people shared the same thought. One wrote: ‘At last one has some common sense in sports. Now other sports will also have to follow this example.

Another said: ‘It should be in all amateur sports too, not just elite sports,’ and likewise another said: ‘Now for other sports governing bodies.’

Sports scientist Ross Tucker tweeted: ‘Thank you women, science for listening to your own swimmers and coaches, and for creating a policy that honors the women’s sport.’