Transgender Olympian Caitlyn Jenner has come out in support of a new policy that prohibits transgender women from competing in swimming events.
In a landmark decision, international professional swimming body Fina has banned transgender athletes from competing in women’s races. Under the new rules, transgender swimmers must have completed their transition by age 12 to be able to compete in women’s competitions.
They must also provide proof that they’ve constantly suppressed their testosterone levels since their transition.
Caitlyn, who famously won gold as Bruce Jenner in 1976, says she took a lot of flack for her sentiments but she believes it's the right move.
“I took a lot of heat – but what’s fair is fair. If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females,” she says.
The vote was passed with a 71% majority during a general congress at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
It comes after University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashed several swimming records at college swim meets this year, raising questions about the role of testosterone in athletic performance.
Lia, who transitioned in 2019, was catapulted into the center of the international debate over whether transgender girls and women should be allowed to participate on female sports teams.
Critics, like Caitlyn, argued that she should compete separately because her body underwent changes during puberty that gave her a lasting, unfair advantage.
“Thanks to all of you that stood with me as I talked about what should be obvious – not anti-LGBT but common sense. I am glad the international athletics community is speaking out. I will continue to speak out, act and advocate for women in sports,” she says.
Caitlyn, who publicly came out as transgender in 2015 in a Vanity Fair article, has been quite vocal on the topic, saying girls’ school sports need to be protected.
In an interview earlier this year, she said she respects Lia’s right to transition and wished her a wonderful life.
“But,” the Olympian added, “she grew up as a biological boy and I don’t think it’s fair that she’s competing in women’s sports.
“Three years earlier, she was on the men’s team ranked 462. Now she’s number one in the same event for women? Obviously, it’s not fair.”
Caitlyn didn't back down on her opinion, even after media reports admonished her views.
“I just had the balls to stand up for women and girls in sports," she said on social media.
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, also welcomed Fina's decision.
His spokesperson Max Blain said, “The Prime Minister believes decisions are ultimately for sporting bodies but we welcome that FINA have taken a decision at the elite level which has been considered and based upon fairness and inclusion.”
In a statement, Fina president Husain Al-Musallam said the new policy included proposals for an open competition category, which will accommodate transgender men and women.
The swimming body will establish a new working group that will spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to set up this new category.
“Fina will always welcome every athlete. The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level. This has not been done before, so Fina will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process,” Husain says.
We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women's category at Fina competition.”
More sporting bodies are also reconsidering their policies.
A day after Fina's rule was implemented, the International Rugby League banned all transgender women from participating in international matches as it works on rules pertaining to transgender players.
Track and field body, World Athletics, and soccer federetion, Fifa, have also indicated they might be following suit.
“FIFA is currently reviewing its gender eligibility regulations in consultation with expert stakeholders,” a spokesperson said.
“Due to the ongoing nature of the process, FIFA is not in a position to comment on specifics of proposed amendments to the existing regulations,” the spokesperson added.
SOURCES: EWN.CO.ZA, DAILYMAIL.CO.UK, FINA.ORG, CBC.CA, IOL.CO.ZA