International Swimming Federation: New rules for transgender athletes

MWith a new guideline that is effective immediately, the international swimming federation FINA has de facto excluded starts by transgender athletes in women’s competitions. The guideline was passed on the sidelines of the World Swimming Championships in Budapest at an extraordinary FINA Congress on Sunday with a clear majority of 196 of the 274 votes cast.

It stipulates that a woman’s gender reassignment surgery must be completed before her twelfth birthday in order to be able to compete in women’s competitions. The background to the FINA standard is the attempt to protect swimmers from a competitive advantage for transgender athletes through the testosterone output of a male body during puberty. It is about ensuring equal opportunities, said FINA President Husain Al Musallam.

Artificially lower testosterone levels

The guideline also applies to hyperandrogenic female athletes, referred to in the rules as 46 XY DSD. The most well-known female athlete who grew up with XY chromosomes is South African track and field athlete Caster Semenya, who, according to International Federation of Athletics Federation rules, would have to artificially lower testosterone levels in order to compete in women’s middle distance events. Swimmers with this disposition are henceforth excluded from women’s competitions unless they have reduced their testosterone levels to 2.5 nanomoles per liter of blood since the age of twelve.

The guideline obliges national swimming federations to store data on the sex chromosomes of swimmers entered in international competitions in a FINA database. Accordingly, gender control of its athletes is imposed on the national swimming federations. These “are subject to an obligation to maintain accurate records of their athletes’ sex chromosomes,” the policy says.

At the same time, FINA, under its Kuwaiti president, announced in the “gender-inclusive” directive that in future there should be a so-called “open competition class” for transgender swimmers. A working group should work out the possibilities for this, the aim is to establish a third competition class from 2023. “It hasn’t happened before, FINA will have to be the leader,” Al Musallam said. Every athlete is always welcome in his association, everyone must have the opportunity to compete at the highest level.

Last year, the International Olympic Committee came to the conclusion that there could be no uniform solution to the question of the right to compete for transgender athletes. A framework adopted by the IOC had stated that it must be up to each governing body to determine to what extent an athlete might have a disproportionate advantage over others, given the sport’s particular circumstances.

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