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FINA’s restrictions on transgender athletes are making waves in Canada

World Swimming Confederation’s ban on transgender athletes is making waves in Canada.

FINA on Sunday passed a “Gender Inclusion Policy” that went into effect on Monday.

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

FINA is also considering establishing an open competition category.

FINA became the first major international sports federation to announce how it will target trans athletes in its sport, after the International Olympic Committee issued guidelines on fairness, non-discrimination and inclusion last November.

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

“I read the IOC’s general overarching policy much more comprehensively, so this is a disappointment to me. Some media has speculated that others will follow this path, which I think would be regressive, discriminatory and so on.”

Kidd, a long-distance runner for Canada at the 1964 Olympics, was on a working group for the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport when it created a 2016 guide for sports organizations to create an inclusive environment for trans participants.

“There are people who scold it,” Kidd said. “I’ve been to a public forum or two lately and certainly there are people on both sides.

“But at the national leadership level, there is not much disagreement about the CCES position, which is self-recognition, self-identification, no need for medical intervention, whether hormonal or surgical, and no obligation to disclose.”

CCES allows for a shift in understanding of science through more data to potentially change that position, Kidd said.

“The empirical record is so limited,” he said. “Let’s stray towards inclusion and fairness and not contribute to discrimination, to marginalization.”

Impact on Canadian Swimmers

While Swimming Canada is not bound by FINA guidelines domestically, Canadian swimmers are when competing internationally at a FINA sanctioned event.

Under current Swimming Canada regulations, transgender swimmers wishing to compete for Canada in Olympic, Paralympic and World Championship events must have written proof from FINA of their eligibility to compete in national selection events.

“Swimming Canada believes swimming is for everyone,” Chief Executive Officer Ahmed El-Awadi said in a statement Monday. “We welcome that FINA is taking these steps to bring clarity to issues like these.

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

Competitive sport is currently attempting to include athletes regardless of gender identity or gender variations in a harassment-free environment while ensuring that no athlete has an unfair advantage over the others at an elite level where the financial stakes are high.

Sport Canada ended funding for a commissioned survey on inclusion last month when over 200 members of the academic and sporting communities wrote in a letter saying the survey’s language was discriminatory against transgender athletes.

The purpose of the survey was to examine elite athletes’ views on the inclusion of trans athletes in their sport.

Problems in the US, attitude of FINA

The United States has become a battleground for the problem, with some states enacting bans on trans women and girls from playing women’s sports.

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

The IOC’s policies included rejecting any blanket assumption that male gender confers an athletic advantage in all sports, and discouraging reliance on testosterone levels as the primary basis of eligibility for women’s competitions.

However, FINA claims that in consultation with their scientific working group, higher levels of testosterone in men from puberty gives them a competitive advantage in water sports.

According to FINA, gender-affirming male-to-female transition procedures may mitigate some, but not all, of the effects of testosterone on body structure and muscle function, “but there will be lasting after-effects that will give transgender male-to-female athletes (transgender women) a relative performance advantage over biological ones.” Female.

“A biological female athlete cannot overcome this advantage through training or nutrition,” FINA said in the 24-page document on which its decision was based.

Broader consideration of the FINA document and more feedback over time is needed on such an important issue in sport, Kidd said.

“There’s a process, there’s standards of evidence, there’s independent assessment, there’s consultation,” he said. “If they followed that process and it took a year, then I think people like me, I think the world would feel a lot safer.

“If they had published this as a draft – and CCES has always left the door open for more evidence – you have people around the world, scientists, athletes, ethicists and so on, and people are in consensus that way come, then you have ‘I would have some faith in that, but not in this one.’

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