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Policy protects female swimmers


Iszak Henig (left) and Lia Thomas (right) compete for a NCAA title. Associated Press/Photo by Mary Schwalm

Policy protects female swimmers

The new rules of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) say a male athlete can only compete against women if he started cross-sex treatment before age 12 or before he reached the first stage of puberty on the Tanner Scale (also known as the Sexual Maturity Rating). A woman who previously identified as a man and used testosterone can only compete against other women if the hormone was used for less than a year, treatment didn’t happen during puberty, and hormone levels are back to normal.

How will this affect the Olympics? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in November 2021 that it would not discriminate against athletes on the basis of an assumed advantage from hormone treatment. However, FINA and other international federations govern all Olympic competitions, and the IOC said its previous policy was a nonbinding recommendation. Under the current requirements, Lia Thomas, the first transgender swimmer to win an NCAA Division I title, is not allowed to compete in any major international swimming events. FINA said it will create a new open category for swimmers who do not qualify for either the male or female competition.

Dig deeper: Read Ray Hacke’s article in Muse on the backlash after Lia Thomas won an NCAA title.


Mary Muncy

Mary Muncy is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. She graduated from World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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