FINA Bans Transgender Swimmers From Women’s Events

FINA Bans Transgender Swimmers From Women's Events

Ban Hammer Dropped – World Swimming Has Spoken!

( – The debate over whether transgender women should compete in women’s sports has been ongoing for quite some time. It came to a head this year when Lia Thomas competed in the NCAA on the women’s team and placed much better than she did when competing on the men’s team three years prior — in fact, she won the women’s 500-yard freestyle. The controversy has drawn ire from both sides of the aisle, and now a governing body has set new policies.

FINA’s Ruling

On Sunday, June 19, the governing body of world swimming events, Fédération Internationale De Natation (FINA), voted to implement new eligibility rules concerning the participation of transgender women. In answer to the many coaches and swimmers who campaigned aggressively against their participation following Lia Thomas’ win, FINA considered the prior rules. FINA representatives heard arguments from sports figures, scientists, and medical experts, as well as a group comprised of legal and human rights experts, and decided to adjust the organization’s policy.

In a press release, the organization stated that 71.5% voted in favor of the gender policy change, which effectively bans any male-to-female transgender athlete who went through stage 2 of the Tanner puberty scale. To qualify to compete in FINA competitions, transgender women must have begun hormone therapy before this or the age of 12, whichever one happened later. Those with a medical condition, for example, “complete androgen insensitivity,” which prevents male puberty, are not banned.

The swimmers must also meet specific testosterone thresholds and maintain levels below 2.5 nmol/L. Still, these new guidelines, the strictest in any organization or governing body, effectively ban swimmers like Thomas from competing in the Olympics or any world event FINA runs.

In a statement, President Husain Al-Musallam said the organization “will always welcome every athlete,” but it had an obligation to “protect competitive fairness… especially the women’s category at FINA competitions.”


The exclusion of transgender women who don’t meet the criteria from women’s swimming doesn’t mean FINA plans to exclude them entirely. The organization plans to create a new group, one that’s never existed before. The “open” category would ensure any elite athlete who wants to compete would be able to as long as they meet the qualifying guidelines.

The policy went into effect on Monday, June 20, just one day after the vote passed. There’s a legal route opponents could take through the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, but it’s unclear at the time of writing whether any individual or organization plans to challenge the policy change.

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