World Aquatics, the preeminent global swimming federation that administers water competitions and qualifiers for the International Olympic Committee, is ready to incorporate an “open category” for transgender athletes. The organization’s governing body initially disclosed the proposal in June 2022.
In an address during World Aquatics’ General Congress in Fukuoka, Japan, federation president Husain Al-Musallam confirmed the open category, although he didn’t disclose any specific timeline or details.
World Aquatics, previously known as FINA, last year banned transgender athletes from participating in high-profile events such as the Olympics and world championships in order to maintain fairness in women’s swimming competitions.
“It was very important that we protected fair competition for our female athletes,” Al-Musallam said during his announcement. “But you have heard me say many times there should be no discrimination. Nobody should be excluded from our competitions.”
The new category is a response to World Swimming Coaches Association, which advocated for a separate division to address the physiological dominance of male over female athletes and to uphold competitive fairness.
The controversy around transgender athletes, especially biological men competing in women’s sports, has only become more contentious as men increasingly take over women’s competitions, while taking hormones and claiming to be women.
Lia Thomas, a male collegiate swimmer with the University of Pennsylvania, has amped himself up on hormones to present as a woman and he competed in the women’s division after having competed for three season’s in the men’s division. He went on to dominate NCAA women’s 500-yard freestyle.
World Aquatics’ decision aligns with those from other sports governing bodies that are beginning to take a stand for fairness.
The World Boxing Council now bans transgender athletes from participating in women’s boxing. World Athletics, the governing body for track, field and running competitions, no longer allows transgender women who went through male puberty to compete in women’s events at international competitions.