The world governing body of swimming, FINA, has produced a document called the “POLICY ON ELIGIBILITY FOR THE MEN’S AND WOMEN’S COMPETITON CATEGORIES”. The Policy has been passed by the FINA Congress with a 71.5% majority. Well done FINA. The policy protects women’s sport. In swimming at least, gone are the days when Laurel Hubbard, Kate Weatherly and Lia Thomas could take advantage of their male puberty development to win by cheating in women’s sport.

The Policy is 24 pages, but the heart and soul of the Policy, the bit that really matters, is on page seven. Section 4, “Eligibility for the Women’s Category” says a swimmer can compete in women’s swimming only under the following conditions.

  • Athletes who have previously used testosterone as part of female-to-male hormone treatment but are no longer following that treatment are eligible to compete in the women’s category in FINA competitions if they can establish that the testosterone use was for less than a year in total and did not take place during pubertal development, and their testosterone levels are back to pre-treatment normal, and any associated anabolic effects have been eliminated.
  • Male-to-female transgender athletes (transgender women) are eligible to compete in the women’s category in FINA competitions if they can establish that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond the age of 11.
  • Specifically, the athlete must produce evidence establishing that they have complete androgen insensitivity and therefore could not experience male puberty; or they are androgen sensitive but had male puberty suppressed beginning at age 11, and they have since continuously maintained their testosterone levels below 2.5 nmol/L.
  • An unintentional deviation from the below 2.5 nmol/L requirement may result in retrospective disqualification.
  • An intentional deviation from the below 2.5 nmol/L requirement may result in retrospective disqualification equal in length to periods imposed under anti-doping rules violations.

FINA has protected legitimate women’s sport. Well done to them. I see the policy also recommends local Federations, such as Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) adopt the FINA policy. I would have thought that, in the case of SNZ, adopting the policy was automatic. I’m sure there is a Constitutional requirement for SNZ to follow all FINA Rules. But to avoid doubt adopting this policy in New Zealand should be high on the SNZ Board’s next meeting agenda.

Today the sport of swimming took a major step forward. No male is ever going to be able to prove that from the age of 11 he/she was on anti-testosterone treatment continuously. If FINA introduce an “Open” category, then Lia Thomas can go swim there. But the Paris Olympic Games are, thankfully, no longer an option.   

PS – I have received a comment from a person whose opinions I respect. The comment said, “Transgender women do not transition to “cheat” in women’s sport”.

I apologise for my inference that this was the case. Of course, the transition decision is not made to cheat in women’s sport. A person making that decision should be supported and not vilified in any way.

So, what did I mean?

I meant that most sports have a constitutional duty to provide even and fair competition. The process of transition from male to female after the onset of puberty, followed by a decision to take part in women’s sport breaches that constitutional obligation. It is against most sports constitutional rules. Therefore, by definition, it is cheating.

Personally, I support the decision to transition, for whatever reason. Just do not then make the unconstitutional decision to breech the sports “fairness” rules by taking part in women’s events – unless of course the transgender swimmer can comply with the 11 years of age and continuous 2.5 testosterone rule.  

FINA have decided that must be clarified. Their policy statement today does that.

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