The world swimming governing body has banned transgender athletes from competing in women’s events.
The International Swimming Federation (FINA) announced Sunday it will not permit individuals who began transitioning after the age of 11 to compete as women. FINA oversees swimming competitions around the world and sets event rules for the Olympic Games.
"Because of the performance gap that emerges at puberty between biological males as a group and biological females as a group, separate sex competition is necessary," FINA said. "Without eligibility standards based on biological sex or sex-linked traits, we are very unlikely to see biological females in finals, on podiums, or in championship positions."
Transgender participation in sports was thrust onto the national stage when Lia Thomas, formerly William Thomas, won the NCAA Women's Division I Swimming and Diving Championships 500-yard freestyle event in March. Thomas’s swim time smashed national women’s records, and the athlete leaped from ranking 65th among collegiate men to first among collegiate women in the event.
The decision comes after the International Olympic Committee encouraged sports federations to establish new frameworks for transgender athletes last year. The decision was made based on the opinions of experts in the athletic, scientific, and human rights fields.
"This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It’s what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair," the FINA president’s spokesman James Pearce told Associated Press.
The policy also proposes an open category for people who do not meet qualifications for competition as men or women.
A Washington Post poll from last week showed 58 percent of Americans believe biological men should be barred from women’s professional and collegiate sports.
Thomas told Good Morning America last month, "It’s been a goal of mine to swim at Olympic trials for a very long time, and I would love to see that through." He also said, "Trans women are not a threat to women’s sports."
Thomas began transitioning in 2019, making him ineligible to compete as a woman.