While the world swimming championships are currently being held in Budapest (Hungary), the president of the International Swimming Federation (Fina), Husain Al-Musallam, announced on Sunday June 29 that swimming intended to become “the first sport” to set up a “open class” where transgender athletes can compete.
During an extraordinary congress organized by Fina in Budapest, the proposal to create an open category received 71.5% of votes in favor. This is a project that a group of athletes, scientists, doctors and human rights defenders had been working on since November 2021. “I don’t want an athlete to be told that he cannot compete at the highest level”declared Husain Al-Musallam during this congress, while welcoming this progress: “We will be the first federation to do so. »
Physiological benefits retained despite suppressing hormones
This announcement comes a few weeks after the university title won by transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in the United States. A controversy was born, while several of its competitors believed that it benefited from a physiological advantage. The scientific committee consulted by Fina has in fact noted that men who become women retain advantages.
Some of the advantages that men gain at puberty are “structural” and are not lost with the suppression of hormones, said Sandra Hunter of Marquette University in Milwaukee, a member of this committee: “This includes things like bigger lungs and hearts, longer bones, bigger feet and hands. »
A new working group will now be set up to make this new category effective and define its outlines: “We must protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we must also protect the fairness of our competitions, and especially in the women’s category”, added the president of Fina. Athletes who were born male and became female will only be able to compete in women’s Fina categories, or set world records, if they became female before reaching puberty. The men’s competition, on the other hand, should remain open to all athletes.