The international governing body for swimming competitions, FINA, struck a blow for rationality and fairness in its newly announced “Policy On Eligibility For The Men’s And Women’s Competition Categories.” FINA decided to bar transgender women from participating in women’s elite international swimming competitions unless they had undergone medical treatments to suppress production of testosterone and completed their “transition” prior to the age of 12. The new policy, which was announced on June 19th, is based on biological science.
Before reaching its decision, FINA had established a Science Group “to examine the most up-to-date scientific knowledge on (1) the impact of biological sex on athletic performance, and (2) the impact of gender-affirming medical transition on factors that influence athletic performance, and to produce a report setting out their findings.”
The Science Group’s report concluded that “biological sex is a key determinant of athletic performance, with males outperforming females in sports (including Aquatics sports) that are primarily determined by neuromuscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory function, and anthropometrics including body and limb size. The extent of the male/female performance gap varies by sport and competition, but the gap universally emerges starting from the onset of puberty.”
FINA coupled the results of its scientific investigation into the impact of the physical differences between biologically born males and biologically born females after reaching puberty with its commitment to fundamental fairness in promoting male and female athletes and male and female sport equally. Blurring the physiological distinctions between the sexes that affect athletic performance by allowing the fluidity of gender identity to govern who can compete as a female in women’s aquatic sports violates both scientific and fair competition principles.
“We are faced with such a delicate balancing act,” FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said. “We have to protect the rights of all our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially women’s competition and also the past record and achievement of the women.”
FINA plans to establish an “open” category for some of its swimming competitions where athletes will be allowed to compete regardless of “their sex, their legal gender, or their gender identity.”
FINA’s willingness to make allowances for transgender women who had transitioned prior to puberty may encourage some parents to act precipitously to irreversibly transition their child. They might be tempted do so upon the first sign of their child’s gender confusion, which school instruction on gender identity may exacerbate. However, at least FINA has moved in the right direction with its new policy.
Even the left-leaning New York Times had to acknowledge the science behind FINA’s decision.
“Scientists believe the onset of male puberty gives transgender women a lasting, irreversible physical advantage over athletes who were female at birth,” the New York Times reported in its article on FINA’s decision. “Peer-reviewed studies show that even after testosterone suppression, top-level transgender women retain a substantial edge when racing against top biological women, according to Michael J. Joyner, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who studies the physiology of male and female athletes. Men on average have broader shoulders, bigger hands, longer torsos, greater lung and heart capacity and their muscles are denser.”
Transgender activists and their leftwing supporters are science-deniers in their demand that transgender women be able to compete athletically with women who were born female. They want to obliterate the biological distinctions between the sexes by claiming that policies which recognize such distinctions are inherently discriminatory.
For example, Alejandra Caraballo, an instructor at Harvard Law School and an expert on transgender issues, said the FINA rule “is an incredibly discriminatory policy that is attempting to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.”
The problem does exist for biological girls and women who have trained hard to compete for glory in swimming competitions. They are severely handicapped in having to swim competitively against biological men claiming to be transgender women who enter the swimming competition with greater innate physiological strength than biological women.
Lia Thomas ranked 554th as a biological man in the 200-freestyle men’s competition. Thomas then ranked as the fastest “woman” in the 500-freestyle women’s competition at the NCAA Championships this year after transitioning to become a transgender woman. That became a real problem for the biological women who had to compete against Thomas.
Reka Gyorgy, a former Olympic swimmer and female college athlete, was the 17th-place finisher who just missed securing a spot in the consolation final because of Thomas’s participation in the women’s competition. She wrote a statement to the NCAA in which she complained, “This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated. It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete.” Ms. Gyorgy added that “every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet.”
As usual, President Joe Biden has bowed to his progressive, leftwing base. His administration has supported the position of transgender activists that eligibility to participate in a school sport should not be based on the student’s biological sex at birth but on the student’s chosen gender identity. President Biden’s willingness to accommodate the demands of activists representing less than 1 percent of America’s population defies biological science. And it turns Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any federally funded educational program, on its head.
Biden administration officials should carefully study FINA’s Policy On Eligibility For The Men’s And Women’s Competition Categories. They might learn something about science. Hopefully, the NCAA and other athletic organizations will adopt FINA’s common-sense, scientifically-based policy.