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World Athletics and FIFA reviewing transgender policies after FINA ruling

Athletics boss Sebastian Coe (left) and FIFA president Gianni Infantino (right) will both face questions about their organisations' treatment of transgender athletes. (Reuters: Fabrice Coffrini)

World football's governing body and athletics administrators are reviewing their transgender eligibility policies after swimming passed new rules that restrict transgender participation in women's events.

On Sunday, swimming's world governing body FINA voted to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women's competitions and create a working group to establish an "open" category in some events as part of its new policy.

The new policy states that transgender women are eligible to compete in women's competitions only if "they can establish to FINA's comfortable satisfaction that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 [of puberty] or before age 12, whichever is later".

Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, told the BBC the organisation's council would discuss their regulations at the end of the year.

Coe praised FINA for taking the decision, which has been criticised by trans rights advocates, who have regularly challenged claims that trans women dominate women's sport.

Lia Thomas's performance at the 2022 US college championships kicked the conversation into overdrive. (Getty images: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

For example, the swim that sparked much of this debate, Lia Thomas's win in the 500-yard freestyle at US college championships, was nine seconds slower than the NCAA record set by Katie Ledecky five years ago.

Coe said it was important to protect the integrity of women's sport, saying "if it's a judgement between inclusion and fairness, we will always fall down on the side of fairness".

"We see an international federation asserting its primacy in setting rules, regulations and policies that are in the best interest of its sport," Coe told the BBC.

"This is as it should be. We have always believed that biology trumps gender, and we will continue to review our regulations in line with this. We will follow the science.

"We continue to study, research and contribute to the growing body of evidence that testosterone is a key determinant in performance, and have scheduled a discussion on our regulations with our council at the end of the year."

Last year, the IOC issued a "framework" on the issue, leaving eligibility decisions up to individual sports bodies, but adding that "until evidence determines otherwise, athletes should not be deemed to have an unfair or disproportionate competitive advantage due to their sex variations, physical appearance and/or transgender status".

Former Olympic swimmer says the policing of women's bodies doesn't stand up

World Athletics' current rules cap testosterone levels at five nanomoles per litre (5nmol/L) for transgender athletes and for competitors with differences in sex development (DSD) in some women's running events.

The athletics governing body has attracted criticism in the past for its handling of gender-related issues, with the treatment of South African middle-distance star Caster Semenya garnering headlines around the world and ending up in front of numerous courts and tribunals.

FIFA reviewing its policy

A spokesperson for FIFA said it was in a consultation process over a new policy.

"FIFA is currently reviewing its gender eligibility regulations in consultation with expert stakeholders," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the process was "ongoing" so would not comment further "on specifics of proposed amendments to the existing regulations".

FIFA said it was taking guidance from medical, legal, scientific, performance and human rights experts and also the position of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"Should FIFA be asked to verify the eligibility of a player before the new regulations will be in place, any such case will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, taking into account FIFA's clear commitment to respect human rights," the spokesperson said.

Last week the International Cycling Union (UCI) tightened its rules on transgender participation by increasing the transition period on low testosterone to two years and reducing the maximum permitted testosterone level.


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