Sharron Davies has called for other sports to follow swimming’s lead after the seismic decision to ban transgender athletes from elite women’s races.
Swimming’s world governing body, FINA, on Sunday voted through a major new policy stating that trans women who have ‘experienced any part of male puberty’ can no longer enter female events.
The move was hailed as a ‘victory for women’s sport’ by former British Olympic swimmer Davies, who has been a long-time campaigner on the issue.
Sharron Davies has called for more sports to ban transgender athletes from female events
However, the 1980 silver medallist now wants other Olympic sports to copy FINA’s strict stance. Last week, cycling updated their own rules but were criticised for continuing to base transgender inclusion on testosterone levels and admitting they could not ‘eliminate all advantages held by a transgender’.
‘I am so proud of FINA for at last being the first to be brave enough to stand up for female athletes,’ a tearful Davies told Sportsmail following Sunday’s announcement. ‘This is a very good move and I hope now that all the other associations pick it up.
‘I think what cycling has done is disgraceful. They have basically said they are happy for female athletes to compete with a disadvantage. I’m afraid that is not acceptable in a world where we don’t believe in sex discrimination.’
The new swimming policy came following an Extraordinary General Congress when members heard a report from a transgender task force comprising leading medical, legal and sports figures.
Cate Campbell was one of the sports stars to speak against trans women in female races
American Summer Sanders, who won two gold medals at Barcelona 1992, and Australia’s current four-time Olympic champion Cate Campbell were among those from the sport to speak out against trans women competing in female races.
The rule – which states any trans athlete must have completed transition by the age of 12 – was passed with 71 per cent of the vote from 152 FINA members and comes into force as soon as today (Mon). FINA will also establish an ‘open’ category for swimmers whose gender identity is different from their birth sex.
‘FINA’s approach in drafting this policy was comprehensive, science-based and inclusive, and, importantly, emphasised competitive fairness,’ said the governing body’s executive director Brent Nowicki.
FINA president Husain Al-Musallam added: ‘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 competitions.’
Lia Thomas became the first transgender swimmer to win the highest US national college title
The debate around transgender athletes in swimming catapulted into the spotlight in March when
Lia Thomas became the first known transgender swimmer to win the highest US national college title.
The 22-year-old won the women’s 500-yard freestyle having swam for the Pennsylvanian men’s team for three seasons before starting hormone replacement therapy in 2019.
Thomas had stated her aim was to qualify for the Paris Olympics in 2024, but FINA’s new policy bans her from racing against women at the Games or any other international events.
‘It’s the first victory and an extremely important one,’ added Davies. ‘I can’t tell you how hard it has been. I have hardly worked for three years because the trans activists made my life hell.
‘But I was so determined because nobody stood up for my generation way back in the ’70s and ’80s. I was absolutely determined another generation wasn’t going to deal with that. Today’s swimmers will be relieved.’
Campaign group Fair Play for Women also said FINA had ‘done the right thing and brought back fairness for women and girls in competitive swimming’.
However, ‘Athlete Ally’ – the group who organised a letter of support for Thomas earlier this year – tweeted: ‘FINA’s new eligibility criteria for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations is discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 IOC principles. If we truly want to protect women’s sports, we must include all women.’