Lia Thomas is the biological male that competed in women’s swimming this past season, largely dominating the competition, composed as it was of women that hadn’t had the benefit provided in athletics by years of testosterone and training as a male.
While the NCAA refused to deal with the situation and defend the right of women to play sports without being beaten by biological males, FINA, swimming’s world governing body, was.
It held a vote over the weekend in which over 70 percent of its members voted in favor of a policy that requires transgender swimmers to have completed their transition by age 12 to be able to compete in the competition of the gender they transitioned to.
FINA did, however, also propose an “open competition” category in which anyone could compete regardless of the gender they transitioned to.
James Pearce, the spokesperson for FINA president Husain Al-Musallam, spoke to the Associated Press about the change in how transgender swimmers are treated by the rule change, saying:
“This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It’s what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair.
“They’re not saying everyone should transition by age 11, that’s ridiculous. You can’t transition by that age in most countries and hopefully, you wouldn’t be encouraged to. Basically, what they’re saying is that it is not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage.”
He also discussed the “open” category with the Associated Press, saying:
“No one quite knows how this is going to work. And we need to include a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to work out how it would work. So there are no details of how that would work. The open category is something that will start being discussed tomorrow.”
The new FINA rule will apply to the controversial NCAA champion and transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, effectively banning him from competing in any FINA events other than the open category, if it is indeed created.
Though Thomas’ college career in swimming is over, he did indicate that he would attempt to compete in the 2024 Olympics, making this decision impactful to him,as it means he can’t compete as a woman.
Further, the decision will apply to NCAA events and prevent a Lia Thomas situation from happening again, as the NCAA said in a press release that:
The NCAA Board of Governors on Wednesday voted in support of a sport-by-sport approach to transgender participation that preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete. The new policy, effective immediately, aligns transgender student-athlete participation for college sports with recent policy changes (PDF) from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and International Olympic Committee.
Like the Olympics, the updated NCAA policy calls for transgender participation for each sport to be determined by the policy for the national governing body of that sport, subject to ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to the Board of Governors. If there is no NGB policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy would be followed. If there is no international federation policy, previously established IOC policy criteria would be followed.
So, because FINA is the governing body, the NCAA, unless it reverses course, will not allow transgender swimmers to compete in the gender category that they transitioned to unless that transition happened unspeakably early in their lives.