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Why the 12-year limit for trans women in swimming? “Then you haven’t gone through puberty yet” | Swimming

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) has decided to only allow trans women into their competitions if they have undergone their transition before the age of 12. “It is a good thing that there is finally clarity in the various sports,” says Professor Wim Derave.

“It is a very, very sensitive discussion,” says Wim Derave, professor of exercise and exercise physiology (UGent) in De Wereld Today about the debate about trans people in sport.

“Actually you can disadvantage two parties. On the one hand you can touch the fair play of women’s sport, because trans women have an advantage that cannot be erased.”

“On the other hand, you can also opt for inclusion by admitting a group of people who are often excluded in society anyway. You have to find a balance between the two.”

“The International Olympic Committee has passed the hot potato on to the various sports associations. I had hoped that a bit, because an all-or-nothing decision would have been wrong.”

“As a sport, you therefore have to make a decision yourself. It is a good thing that there is finally clarity in the various sports. At the International Swimming Federation (FINA) they have protected women’s sport, other associations – such as football – opted for more inclusion.”

The performance of Lia Thomas in the swim provoked a lot of protest.

“It is not correct to lump all sports with the same brush”

Professor Derave explains why an age limit of 12 years, such as in swimming, actually equates to exclusion.

“At the age of 12 you have not yet “benefited” from a male puberty. Then you do not really have its advantages. But that is mainly theoretical, because in practice a transition before the age of 12 is very rare.”

According to Professor Derave, trans women who have gone through puberty do have an undeniable advantage in certain sports. “In weightlifting, men perform about 40 to 50% better than women.”

“Then you can’t let someone who is biologically male join the women. The hormone suppression that trans women go through doesn’t take away all those benefits that you have accumulated during puberty.”

“In other sports, the difference between men and women is not that big, so it would not be correct to shave everyone with the same brush with 1 rule.”

The hormone suppression that trans women go through doesn’t take away all the benefits you accumulate in puberty.

professor Wim Derave

A 3rd category? “Not realistic”

At the FINA they are cautiously suggesting the possibility of creating a 3rd category, between men and women. According to Professor Derave, this is not a realistic option.

“That seems more like a theoretical solution to me. Even if they would also add intersex people who both have sexual characteristics, they will never get enough people.”

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