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International Federation Makes Ruling on ‘Gender Inclusion’

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Some decisions in life are easy … like deciding to cash in on a Red Stag casino bonus to play some online casino games.  Other decision, like the decision that FINA made in regards to international water sports and transgender swimmers, was not as easy.

First, let’s define some terms:

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  • Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer (male to female) who recently broke a huge number of records while competing on women’s collegic swimming teams.  Recently, Lia Thomas announced that she had aspirations to compete internationally on the US Women’s Olympic Swimming team.
  • FINA – Fédération internationale de natation (English: International Swimming Federation) is located in Lausanne, Switzerland.  President is Husain Al-Musalleam.  FINA Website –
  • IOC – International Olympic Committee.  FINA is recognized by the IOC for water sports.  So what FINA rules, will be followed by the Olympics and all other interntional water sports competitions.
  • NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association had ruled earlier this year that they will follow whatever interntional and olympics standards are set.
  • 24 pasge document “Policy on Eligibility for the Men’s and women’s Competition Categories” (FINA document)

It is similar to the US Supreme Court ruling something, and then that ruling trickles down into federal law, then to state law, then to community law.  But it is not as strict, because International Competitions, National Competitions, Olympics, and Collegiate competitions involve large sums of money and national and international recognition.  When talking about High School Sports, Middle School Sports, Little League, and community sports, no money (beyond maybe “losers pay for the pizza”) is involved.  The stakes are not as high, so the details of the classifications do not need to be as strict.

What was the FINA ruling involving transgender competitors at the international level?

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The “gender inclusion policy” will only permit swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 to compete in women’s events. FINA members voted 71.5% in favor of the new policies.

What this means is that people who were born with physical issues of XY (genetics involving sex) will not be discriminated against.

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  • 46, XY – a condition in hwich an individual with one X chromosome and one Y chromosome in each cell, the pattern normally found in males, have genitalia that is not clearly male or female (only condition that FINA talks about, aka, only condition where the people realistically would compete in collegiate, national, international, or olympics sports)
  • 47, XXY – Klinefelter Syndrome – Only 25% are ever diagnosed.  Only 10% are identified prior to adolescense.  Hormone therapy before the age of 9 helps improve brain function. (classified as boys)
  • XYY – Jacob’s Syndrome – 85% never diagnosed.  Language based learning disabilities and difficulty with motor skills.  They are also very tall, between 6’3” to 6’5”. (classified as boys)
  • XXX – 47 – Most girls are undiagnosed.  Exhibit reading dysfunction and language based learning disorders and ADHD.  (Girls with XXX cannot have children).
  • 48, XXYY – Language based learning issues and difficulty with motor skills.  Dyslexia.  Stronger math and visual spatial skills such assembling puzzles and remembering directions.  IQ ranging from 70-80, but verbal IQ is lower than performance IQ due to languge based learning difficulties.  (classified as boys)
  • Pentasomy X –
  • 49, XXXX or Tetrasomy X – Only 100 cases have been reported.  Largely undiagnosed.  Fifth finger bends like a hook.  Some girls with XXXX have severe impairments while others are within the range of normal with some developmental delays.  Affects gross motor skills.
  • 48, XXXY – boys with XXXY have more complicated neurodevelopmental profiles.
  • 49, XXXXY – Severe speech and motor delays.  Low muscle tone.  Issues with the skeletal system, cardiac system, and genital system.  Height is below average.  (classified as boys)
  • 49, XXXXX – Less than 40 cases have ever been reported.  A girls with XXXXX will have learning issues, need physical therapy, speech therapy, and other symptom related issues.

But when you look at the list and the “normal” development of people with these conditions, these children may participate in Little League, middle school sports, high school sports, and maybe even non competitive college sports, the probability that these people will compete in college sports, national sports, or international sports is unlikely.

But them competing in the Special Olympics is realistic.  Not to mention that if a coach has a child with one of these conditions on their team that they need to take that into consideration when deciding team make-up who plays and who sits on the sideline.

There are also hormone issues:

  • Male Hypogonadism – decreased production of testosterone, sperm, or both, or rarely, decreased response to testosterone, resulting in delayed puberty.  Without testosterone, a boy cannot develop male secondary sexual characteristics.
  • Females have issues with estrogen and progesterone.  But females also require testosterone.

The following systems control hormone activity in a person, and when any of these systems are “out of whack” it can affect a child’s normal physical and sexual development.

  • Hypothalamus – referred to as a ‘neuroendocrine tissue’, the hypothalamus is a group of cells located at the base of the brain, which produces hormones that control other parts of the endocrine system, such as the pituitary.
  • Pituitary gland – located under the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland is a vital component of the endocrine system as it releases several hormones for a variety of functions. For example, it produces growth hormone, which is needed for growth and development, meanwhile follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are released from the pituitary to control pubertal development.
  • Thyroid – produces and secretes two hormones into the blood, namely thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are important for controlling metabolic processes, such as food digestion and heart rate, and support activity of the growth hormone.
  • Adrenal gland – the adrenal glands make several hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol plays a role in metabolism, growth and the stress response of the body.
  • Ovaries – produce the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are involved in the development of female sex organs, the menstrual cycle, fertility throughout life and breast development.
  • Testes – produce the male sex hormone testosterone, which is important for spermatogenesis, growth and muscle mass as well as secondary sexual characteristics like facial and body hair.  So, as long as a male has that part of his body, his body continues to produce testosterone.

Some children are born with issues in these areas, while others have issues (for example, cancer) that can damage these areas of their body.

What is the new “open competition policy”?

The organization said it was setting up “a new working group that will spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to set up this new category. [open competition policy].”  FINA released a 24 page document that would describe how transgender men and women can compete in international and olympic sports (which will also affect collegiate sports and national sports).

FINA said transgender men are eligible to compete in FINA competitions and set world records in the men’s category unless:

“For the disciplines of Water Polo and High Diving, the athlete must provide to FINA an assumption of risk form signed and dated by the athlete or if the athlete is a minor, by their legal proxy” or “All athletes who are undergoing treatment involving testosterone or other anabolic substances as part of female-to-male genderaffirming hormone treatment are required to obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for that treatment in accordance with the FINA Doping Control Rules.”

Transgender women and athletes whose legal gender and/or gender identity is female can compete in FINA-sanctioned events if “they can establish to FINA’s comfortable satisfaction that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.”

The athlete must produce evidence they have “complete androgen insensitivity and therefore could not experience male puberty” or “They are androgen sensitive but had male puberty suppressed beginning at Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later, and they have since continuously maintained their testosterone levels in serum (or plasma) below 2.5 nmol/L” or “An unintentional deviation from the below 2.5 nmol/L requirement may result in retrospective disqualification of results and/or a prospective period of ineligibility or “An intentional deviation from the below 2.5 nmol/L requirement may result in retrospective disqualification of results and a prospective period of ineligibility equal or commensurate in length to periods imposed under the FINA DRC for intentional anti-doping rule violations involving anabolic steroids.”

Transgender athlete who does not meet the eligibility standards may compete in “any open events” the organization could develop in the future.

The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level.

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