Swimming’s world governing body FINA voted to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions. The body said that an “open” category will be put in place for them in some events as part of its new policy.

FINA officials said the decision to put in place such a policy was to ensure fair competition in women’s races.

“By 14 years or older, the difference between boys and girls is substantial. That’s due to the advantages experienced due to the physiological adaptations in testosterone and the possession of the Y chromosome,” Dr Sandra Hunter, an exercise physiologist who was part of FINA’s panel looking into the issue, said.

Also Read | Early transgender identity tends to stick around for long: Study

“Some of these physical advantages are structural in origin such as height, limb length, heart size, lung size and they will be retained, even with the suppression or reduction of testosterone that occurs in the transition from male to female.”

Under the new eligibility policy male-to-female transgender swimmers (transgender women) are eligible to compete in women’s competitions only if “they can establish to FINA’s comfortable satisfaction that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 (of puberty) or before age 12, whichever is later.”

FINA said that for the “open” category they will look into the feasibility of a category where anyone “who meets the eligibility criteria for that event would be able to compete without regard to their sex, their legal gender, or their gender identity.”

The policy for transgender men states that in the case of female to male transgender swimmers (transgender men), given there is no physical advantage gained, they are eligible to compete in men’s competition.

However, swimmers who are undergoing testosterone treatment or receiving other anabolic substances as part of hormone treatment need to obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption in line with anti-doping regulations.

Also Read | Transgender athlete penalty bill heads to Tennessee governor’s desk

Female-to-male transgender athletes (transgender men) can compete in the women’s category if they are not using exogenous androgens. 

Male-to-female transgender athletes (transgender women) remain eligible for the men’s category whether or not they are suppressing their endogenous androgens.

The US based campaign group Athlete Ally slammed the move saying the policy is “deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” and out of line with the stance of the International Olympic Committee.