FINA transgender athlete restrictions make waves in Canada

The world’s governing body for the exclusion of transgender athletes in swimming is causing a stir in Canada.

FINA on Sunday adopted a “gender inclusion policy” that came into force on Monday.

Only swimmers who transition from male to female before the age of 12 are allowed to compete in women’s events.

FINA is also considering the establishment of an open competition category.

FINA was the first major international sports federation to announce how it will address trans athletes in its sport following the issuance of the International Olympic Committee’s fairness, non-discrimination and inclusion guidelines last November.

“It’s the first IF to exclude trans people, male to female, in such an explicit way,” Bruce Kidd, professor emeritus of sports and public policy at the University of Toronto, told The Canadian Press on Monday.

“I read the general IOC general policy in a much more inclusive way, so this is a disappointment for me. Some media have speculated that others will follow this way, which I think would be regressive, discriminatory, etc.”

Kidd, a distance runner from Canada at the 1964 Olympics, was part of a Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport task force when it established guidance in 2016 for sports organizations to create inclusive environments for trans participants.

“There are people who complain about that,” Kidd said. “I have participated in one or two public forums in recent times and there are certainly people on both sides.

“But at the national leadership level, there’s not a lot of disagreement with the CCES position which is self-recognition, self-identification, no requirement for medical intervention, whether hormonal or surgical, and no requirement for disclosure.”

The CCES allows for a changing understanding of the science from more data to potentially alter that position, Kidd said.

“The empirical record is very limited,” he said. “We will err in the direction of inclusion and equity and let’s not add to discrimination, marginalization.”

Impact on Canadian swimmers

While Swimming Canada is not subject to FINA directives at the national level, Canadian swimmers are when they compete internationally in a FINA-sanctioned event.

Under current Swimming Canada regulations, transgender swimmers wishing to swim for Canada in Olympic, Paralympic and world championship events must have written proof from FINA that they are eligible to do so, in order to swim in national team events.

“Swimming Canada believes that swimming is for everyone,” CEO Ahmed El-Awadi said in a statement Monday. “We thank FINA for taking these steps to clarify issues like this.

“We look forward to reviewing the policy in greater detail and working with FINA and other key partners to align our policies in Canada.”

The balance the sport is currently trying to strike is the inclusion of athletes regardless of their gender identity or sexual variations in an environment free from harassment while, at an elite level where the financial stakes are high, ensuring that no athlete has a unfair advantage over the rest of the world. countryside.

Sport Canada ended financial support for a commissioned survey on inclusion last month when more than 200 members of the academic and sports communities stated in a letter that the language of the survey was discriminatory towards transgender athletes.

The intent of the survey was to investigate the views of female high-performance athletes on the inclusion of trans athletes in their sports.

Problems in the USA, the position of FINA

The United States has become a battleground over the issue, with some states legislating to ban trans women and girls from playing women’s sports.

While the IOC issued guidance and principles on inclusion last November, it is ultimately leaving it to each sport’s governing body to draft eligibility criteria and determine whether an athlete has a disproportionate advantage.

Among the IOC’s tenets were rejecting the general assumption that male sex confers an athletic advantage in all sports and discouraging reliance on testosterone levels as the primary basis of eligibility for female competition.

But FINA maintains that, in consultation with its scientific working group, higher testosterone levels in men from puberty onwards give them a competitive advantage in water sports.

FINA said gender-affirming male-to-female transition procedures may mitigate some, but not all, of testosterone’s effects on body structure and muscle function “but there will be lingering inherited effects that will give male transgender athletes female (transgender women) a relative performance advantage over biological females.

“A biological female athlete cannot overcome that advantage through training or nutrition,” FINA stated in the 24-page document that formed the basis of its decision.

Wider scrutiny of the FINA document and more comment over time on such an important issue in the sport was needed, Kidd said.

“There is a process, there are standards of evidence, there is an arm’s length assessment, there is a consultation,” he said. “If they had gone through that process and taken a year off, I think people like me I think the world would feel a lot safer about it.

“If they had published this as a draft, and the CCES always left the door open for more evidence, you have people from all over the world, scientists, athletes, ethicists, etc., and people came to a consensus that way. , so you’d have some confidence in that, but not in this.”

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