Transgender people banned from competing with women in major international swimming and rugby tournaments

The rules were changed after the scandal over the victories of an American transgender athlete.

Transgender athlete Leah Thomas

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) has banned transgender people from participating in women’s tournaments under the auspices of the organization – in the main international competitions. 71% of the members of the organization voted for this decision.


Transgender women can compete in the top tournaments, but only if the transition was made before the age of 12 – the onset of puberty. At the same time, there are no restrictions for transgender men who want to compete in the male category. The rule is valid only for competitions under the auspices of FINA, national swimming federations or semi-amateur tournaments will decide the issue on their own.

We must protect the rights of our athletes to participate in competitions, but we must also protect the integrity of these competitions, especially in the women’s category.

Hussein Al Musallam

President of FINA

The federation will create “open category” tournaments so that “every athlete has the opportunity to compete at the elite level.” The ad hoc working group “will spend the next six months looking for the most efficient ways to create this new category.” The federation does not yet know how to hold open competitions, so they plan to consult with transgender athletes.

FINA introduced the ban after a scandal over the victories of transgender swimmer Leah Thomas (pre-transition and testosterone suppression – Will Thomas) in women’s competitions. Thomas played on the men’s swimming team for three years before moving to the women’s team. At competitions in the United States, Leah Thomas broke several records: the 22-year-old athlete in the 1500-meter swim was 38 seconds ahead of her closest rival, in the 500-meter swim – 14. In the second case, the result of the swimmer was 9 seconds slower than the world record of athlete Kathy Ledecky .

From left: Lia Thomas

One of the best judges in the United States, Cynthia Millen, in protest, refused to work in tournaments with the participation of Thomas. “I have told my fellow officials that I can no longer participate in a sport that allows biological men to compete against women. Everything honest in swimming is destroyed, ”she said. The referee was supported by 23-time Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps.

LGBT sports organization Athlete Ally criticized FINA’s decision. “Shame on everyone who supported this discriminatory and unscientific decision,” said multiple Australian champion and Olympic medalist swimmer Medi Groves.


After FINA, the participation of transgender people in women’s competitions was banned by the International Rugby League Federation (IRL). “In the interest of avoiding unnecessary risk to welfare, legal and reputational risk to International Rugby League competitions and those who participate in them, the IRL deems it necessary and obligated to undertake additional consultations and complete further research before finalizing its policy,” the organization said in a statement. . The restriction will also apply to the World Cup. The ban will remain in effect until the criteria for the participation of transgender people in tournaments are determined.

Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (World Athletics), admitted that the organization could follow the example of swimming and ban trans people from participating in women’s competitions. FIFA, according to the Daily Mail, on the contrary, plans to remove the testosterone threshold for transgender football players.


In 2021, the first transgender athlete, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, competed at the Olympics. The 43-year-old athlete from New Zealand changed her gender in 2012: before that, she performed under the name Gavin Hubbard as a man. The International Weightlifting Federation allowed the athlete to go to Tokyo after she had fulfilled all sports and medical requirements. At the Olympics, she failed all three attempts to take weight and dropped out of the tournament, after which she announced her retirement.

Following the controversy over Hubbard’s participation in the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced a new concept regarding transgender athletes. The rules, effective after the 2022 Games, stipulate that “no athlete may be excluded from competition on the basis of perceived unfair advantage due to their gender.” The IOC has clarified that it is up to the International Federations to determine the eligibility criteria.

Transpersons in women’s sports: disputes for and against, as well as the idea of ​​​​creating a “third category”

Scientists say athletes “have no gender” and women complain they can’t beat trans people. There is no single solution to the problem yet, and it raises other questions of genetic inequality.

Laurel Hubbard Japan Times

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