FINA Restricts Transgender Women From Competing at Elite Level

FINA, the international swimming federation, has barred transgender women from competing if they have gone through male puberty.

The new policy, announced Sunday by the federation, requires that transgender athletes wanting to compete in women’s competitions have either never gone through male puberty, or that they had it suppressed at the stage when physical changes begin to appear, or before the age of 12, whichever occurred later.

Such athletes will also have to prove to the federation that they have continuously suppressed their testosterone levels since that time.

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” Husain al-Musallam, the president of the federation said in statement.

Lia Thomas, the transgender woman on the University of Pennsylvania’s swim team, has become the face of the debate over sports and gender identity. She won the N.C.A.A. championship in the 500-yard women’s freestyle this year after previously being ranked 65th while competing in the men’s division. In March, she said she had aspirations to swim at the U.S. Olympic trials.

FINA is looking at an additional, open category, al-Musallam added, to enable every athlete “the opportunity to compete at an elite level.”

FINA Members Federations voted Sunday to adopt the policy, the organization said in the statement, adding that 71.5 percent of members had been in favor of adopting it.

The policy was devised by a working group set up in November that included athletes, scientists and medical and legal experts, it added.

The new policy will go into effect Monday.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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