FINA has found the fairest solution to the problem of transgender people in sport

In the wake of American swimmer Lia Thomas’ victory in March in the NCAA championship, FINA, the international organization that oversees the sport, ruled on Sunday that transgender athletes could no longer compete in women’s events unless did not undergo their transition before the age of 12. , they should undergo testosterone testing.

Instead, FINA will seek to create “open” divisions for transgender competition if demand exists.

“We must protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we must also protect the fairness of competition at our events, especially the women’s category,” FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said in a statement. communicated.

It was the simplest and fairest solution to a problem that arose before the governing bodies knew exactly what to do. FINA’s decision will likely affect swimming and other sports.

Already World Athletics, which oversees athletics, has said it will review its policy, and chairman Sebastian Coe, himself a four-time Olympic medalist, has backed FINA’s approach. Other sports will certainly follow, or at least should.

In the long run, creating a third division and eliminating the perception that transgender athletes are a “threat,” or in any way controversial, political, or negativity-tinged, should do more to promote gender equality. acceptance as the current configuration.

While the issue of transgender athletes has no doubt been hijacked at times by bigots and complacent politicians, that doesn’t mean the issues weren’t legitimate, even for a lot of well-meaning and inclusive people.

Presenting this as a zero-sum problem was counterproductive and wrong. This is not a litmus test of whether young people going through difficult – and sometimes dangerous – times in their lives should be supported or not. You can commit 100% to helping their causes while supporting 100% of FINA’s decision.

And if the day comes when transgender athletes can excite fans and spectators in their own competitions without sporting controversy, they will likely do wonders by showing the same talent, dedication, work ethic and personality. than other athletes. They have incredible stories to tell and races to run.

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas accepts the winning trophy in the 500m freestyle final as second place finisher Emma Weyant and third place finisher Erica Sullivan watch. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It was clear that Thomas, who was a good male swimmer but barely championship-caliber, held unfair advantages despite following all of the guidelines.

Taken to its logical conclusions, where there could be a dozen or dozens of transgender athletes competing in a race, female athletes would be excluded from elite competition or even physically endangered in contact sports such as football and basketball.

“Without eligibility standards based on biological sex or sex-linked traits, it is very unlikely that we will see biological women in finals, on the podiums or in championship positions,” the guidance document concluded. FINA. “And in sports and events involving collisions and projectiles, biological female athletes would be at greater risk of injury.”

Previously, FINA and other organizations attempted to manage this by testing testosterone levels. However, his research has shown that there are clear benefits that can come from going through puberty as a boy – in the case of swimming, things like height, arm length, hand and foot size, etc.

No one wants to prevent anyone from swimming. FINA takes care of encouraging it. Still, not having a real competitive chance for a biological female could diminish participation as much as anything. Same for any other sport.

“My responsibility is to protect the integrity of women’s sport and we take that very seriously,” said Coe of World Athletics. “…And I’ve always been clear: if we’re ever pushed into a corner to the point where we pass judgment on fairness or inclusion, I’ll always fall on the side of fairness.

“You have to do it and it’s my responsibility,” Coe continued. “Of course, it is a social problem. If one of my colleagues here on my team suddenly becomes transgender, it makes no difference to me. They will continue to do the same job with skill and aplomb exactly as they did before making this transition.

“That’s not possible in sport. It’s fundamental to performance and integrity and that, for me, is the big, big difference.

Coe is right, at least according to current science. Good for FINA for stepping up and doing the right thing. And so much the better for the others who will follow.

This had to be the solution.

Hopefully the same energy on both sides that debated this issue is now devoted to promoting access to competition and then celebrating the sporting success of transgender and biologically female athletes.

It would be a victory for everyone.

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