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Lia Thomas & Other Transgender Athletes Banned From Competing Against Women, Separate Category Will Be Set

CAMBRIDGE, MA – FEBRUARY 17: University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas looks on after swimming the 500 freestyle during the 2022 Ivy League Womens Swimming and Diving Championships at Blodgett Pool on February 17, 2022 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Swimming’s world governing body FINA voted to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions and create a working group to establish an “open” category for them in some events as part of its new policy.

Transgender rights has become a major talking point in sports since athletes like Lia Thomas have dominated in women’s sports.

FINA, the international federation for swimming, announced that it is changing its policies so that transgender women can only compete in women’s races if they have completed their transition by the age of 12.

Thomas has expressed a desire to compete for a place at the Olympics but the new FINA rule would block her participation. The policy was passed with a roughly 71% majority after it was put to vote by the members of 152 national federations with voting rights — who had gathered for the congress at the Puskas Arena.

“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.

“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.”

The new FINA policy also opens up eligibility to those who have “complete androgen insensitivity and therefore could not experience male puberty.”

Penn swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history when she won the women’s 500-yard freestyle in March. Thomas competed on the Penn men’s team before transitioning and competing as a woman for the first time in 2021-22.

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