FINA, swimming’s world governing body, has voted to stop transgender athletes from competing in women’s elite races if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.
FINA will also aim to establish an ‘open’ category at competitions for swimmers whose gender identity is different than their birth sex.
The new policy, which was passed with 71 per cent of the vote from 152 FINA members, was described as “only a first step towards full inclusion” for transgender athletes.
The 34-page policy document says that male-to-female transgender athletes could compete in the women’s category – but only “provided they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 [which marks the start of physical development], or before age 12, whichever is later”.
The decision was made during an extraordinary general congress at the ongoing World Championships in Budapest.
It means that transgender American college swimmer Lia Thomas, who has expressed a desire to compete for a place at the Olympics, would be blocked from participating in the female category at the Games.
However, the policy does not apply to national federations or the US college championships, the NCAAs, at which Thomas recently won in the 500-yard freestyle. Instead, each national federation will need to decide if it is to implement the FINA policy.
British Swimming told BBC Sport it would “take time to review [the policy’s] content” before making any further comment.
Earlier, FINA members heard a report from a transgender task force made up of leading figures from the world of medicine, law and sport.
“FINA’s approach in drafting this policy was comprehensive, science-based and inclusive, and, importantly, FINA’s approach emphasised competitive fairness,” said Brent Nowicki, the governing body’s executive director.
FINA president Husain Al-Musallam said the organisation was trying to “protect the rights of our athletes to compete” but also “protect competitive fairness”.
He said: “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. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.” (BBC)