The governing boy for world swimming, FINA, has voted to restrict transgender swimmers from participating in women’s competitions. FINA voted 71.5% in favor to restrict swimmers who have transitioned after the age of 12 from participating in women’s competitions.

The vote came amidst the increasing controversy surrounding transgender athletes partaking in women’s sports as some say that due to an “advantage” that they have over biological women. The controversy surrounding transgender athletes was brought to the forefront due to the success of University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, whose increased success caused many people to question the fairness of the competitions. Thomas won the NCAA championship in the 500-yard freestyle in March.

One swimmer, Lisa Gaines, who competed against Thomas earlier this year, said the new restrictions are a step in the right direction. “I think this is kind of the first large governing body that has prioritized fairness in women’s sports, and so while it’s not everything, it’s definitely a bold first step and a step in the right direction,” Gaines told the media.

Although transgender women are restricted, FINA’s new policy is calling for an “open competition” category that would permit all transgender women. “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,” a FINA spokesman said Monday.


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In the past, testosterone levels in an athlete had been the determining factor in gauging their eligibility to compete in women’s competitions, but the International Olympic Committee gave new recommendations on the matter last November calling for officials to examine where and when a performance advantage exists as it pertains to different sports.

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