— Published 20 June 2022

A new category for transgender athletes

FINA

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) held an extraordinary congress in Budapest on Sunday 19 June. On the sidelines of the world championships, the body voted by an overwhelming majority (75.1%) to create a new policy on inclusion. It should lead to the creation of a so-called “open category”, where transgender athletes can compete. The new rules were adopted after a presentation to Congress by representatives of a working group formed in November 2021. It was composed of athletes, scientists, lawyers and human rights experts. A new working group will now be asked to study over the next six months how to implement the new open category in competitions. FINA President Husain Al-Musallam of Kuwait explained in a statement: “FINA will always welcome every athlete. The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level. This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way.” The timing of this decision is no accident. It is explained by the case of Lia Thomas, an American transgender swimmer who won the 500-yard race at the NCAA Championships in mid-March. Born male, she became the first transgender woman to win a university swimming title. Her victory opened up a wide-ranging debate, both in the US and in the swimming world. Many suggested that her history of male competition gave her a physiological advantage.