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creation of an “open category” where transgender people can compete

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Budapest (AFP) – Swimming intends to become the first sport “to set up a” open category to allow transgender athletes to compete separately, Husain Al-Musallam, president of the International Federation (Fina), announced Sunday in Budapest.

« I don’t want an athlete to be told they can’t compete at the highest level Al-Musallam said at an extraordinary congress of the body held during the World Swimming Championships. ” I will set up a working group to create an open category during our competitions. We will be the first federation to do so ».

The Fina decision comes as swimming has been rocked by a controversy over American transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.

The 22-year-old student, who was born male, had in the spring become the first transgender swimmer to win a university title in the spring.

His victory in mid-March in the final of the 500 yards had opened a wide debate, his detractors believing that having competed as a man in the past, Lia Thomas benefited from an unfair physiological advantage.

“Inclusivity” Policy

At its congress, Fina adopted a new policy of ” inclusiveness which will effectively exclude many transgender swimmers from elite women’s swimming.

Brent Nowicki, Fina’s chief executive, said the organization was determined to maintain separate competitions for men and women.

Fine ” recognizes that some individuals may not be able to compete in the category that best matches their legal gender alignment or gender identity “, he added.

The men’s competition, on the other hand, would be open to all. But athletes who were born male and became female will only be able to compete in women’s Fina categories, or set world records, if they became male before reaching puberty.

“Structural” advantages

Last year, the International Olympic Committee issued guidelines on the issue, while asking federations to develop their own rules ” specific to their sport ».

Fina had appointed three committees, one made up of medical experts, the other of lawyers and the last of athletes, to examine the question. The medical committee found that men who became women retained advantages.

Fina chairman Husain al-Musallam (center) watches an Olympic event in Tokyo on July 30, 2021 Oli SCARFF AFP / Archives

« Even with suppressing hormones, the sex benefits will be retained said one of the members, Dr. Michael Joyner.

Some of the advantages that men acquire at puberty are “ structural » and are not lost with the « suppression des hormones said another member, Dr. Sandra Hunter of Marquette University in Milwaukee. ” This includes things like bigger lungs and hearts, longer bones, bigger feet and hands. »

As for the swimmers, the Australian Cate Campbell, quadruple Olympic champion took the floor to defend this position. ” My role is to stand here today and say to transgender people that we want them to be part of the greater community of swimmers (…) but also to stand here and say (…) ‘Listen to the science,'” she said.

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