Transgender athletes will no longer be allowed to compete in women’s competitions after swimming’s international governing body, FINA, approved new policies take effect on Monday.
Former NCAA record-breaking transgender UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas’ hopes to secure a spot on the 2024 US Women’s Olympic team were dashed, when 71.5% of FINA members voted in favor of 24-page “gender inclusion policy” that restricts biological men who have gone through puberty from competing in the women’s category.
“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,” said FINA president Husain Al-Musallam in a statement on Sunday.
Thomas, who competed in the NCAA’s 2021-2022 season as a female, despite swimming on the men’s team for three years, became the first transgender person to win a NCAA Division I championship in history this March.
“I intend to keep swimming,” Thomas told ABC in an interview. “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.”
Under the new policies, she won’t have the chance to swim against other women, as the International Olympic Committee’s framework for inclusion and fairness allows the governing bodies of individual sports to develop their own eligibility criteria. The NCAA’s policy also defers to international governing bodies’ rulings.
FINA’s gender inclusion policy release included a proposal to create an “open” category for transgender men and women to compete in.
“FINA will always welcome every athlete,” Al-Musallam continued. “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. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.”
The same day FINA’s vote took place, the Daily Mail reported that FIFA, the world’s top soccer association, was considering dropping testosterone testing for biological men who self-identify as female and making it easier for them to participate in the women’s category of the sport.