Swimming body announces new policy on gender inclusion

1 Comment

BUDAPEST — FINA, the international governing body for swimming and other aquatics sports, adopted a new gender inclusion policy that prohibits male-to-female transgender athletes who transitioned after beginning male puberty from competing in women’s events.

“We are faced with such a delicate balancing act,” FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said. “We have to protect the rights of all our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially women’s competition and also the past record and achievement of the women.”

Athlete Ally, a nonprofit LGBTQ athletic advocacy group, called the new policy discriminatory.

“FINA’s new eligibility criteria for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations is deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 International Olympic Committee framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations,” Anne Lieberman, Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally, said in a statement. “The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as it is laid out in the policy police the bodies of all women, and will not be enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete looking to compete in the women’s category.”

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results | U.S. Roster

Last November, the IOC published advice shifting the focus from individual testosterone levels and calling for evidence to prove when a performance advantage existed. The IOC encourages each sport’s international governing body to create its own policies based on its framework.

FINA also plans an “open” category for athletes to be allowed to compete at some of its major competitions “without regard to their sex, their legal gender, or their gender identity.” A working group will be established and spend the next six months preparing to set up the category.

“I do not want any talented athlete to be told that they are unable to compete at the highest level,” Al-Musallam said. “I do not want that discrimination.”

The 24-page gender inclusion policy is detailed here. The specific wording of the policy relating to athletes who transition from male to female:

Male-to-female transgender athletes (transgender women) and athletes with 46 XY DSD whose legal gender and/or gender identity is female are eligible to compete in the women’s category in FINA competitions and to set FINA World Records in the women’s category in FINA competitions and in other events recognized by FINA 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.

FINA defined Tanner Stage 2 as the onset of puberty. The FINA policy states that the male-female performance gap “universally emerges” at the start of puberty due to a 20-fold increase in testosterone for males, while testosterone in females remains low.

“It is a policy that is based on science,” Al-Musallam said. “It is a policy that we need to introduce in order to protect the competitive fairness of our events. However, I completely understand that this a policy that will not be supported by some of our transgender athletes.”

Olympic champion swimmers Summer Sanders and Cate Campbell spoke in support of the policy at the FINA Congress on Sunday.

“I am aware that my actions and words, no matter what I say, will anger some people, whether they are from the trans community or the cisgender female community,” Campbell said in a speech. “However, I am asking everyone to take a breath. Listen before reacting. Listen to the science and experts. Listen to the people who have stood up here and have been telling you how difficult it has been to reconcile inclusion and fairness. That men and women are physiologically different cannot be disputed. We are now only beginning to understand and explore the origins of these physiological differences and the lasting effects of exposure to differing hormones. Women who have fought long and hard to be included as equals in sport can only do so because of the gender category distinction. To remove this distinction would be to the detriment of female athletes everywhere.”

FINA member federations passed the policy with 71.5 percent approval. FINA is the international governing body for the Olympic sports of swimming, diving, water polo and artistic swimming.

In swimming, Lia Thomas transitioned during her college career at Penn, following NCAA rules including 12 months of hormone therapy before being allowed to compete in the women’s category. In March, she became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title. Last month, Thomas said that she hopes to realize a longtime goal of competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Under the FINA policy, Thomas is ineligible to compete in major international swimming events in the women’s category.

Thomas has been eligible to seek eligibility to compete in the women’s category in USA Swimming competition, including trials meets.

She needs to meet requirements including a panel deeming that she does not have a competitive advantage from prior physical development, plus a testosterone cap for the previous 36 months. Thomas reportedly began hormone replacement therapy in May 2019.

As of rules in March, Thomas must go through a competition category change process and submit an elite athlete/event fairness application at least 90 days before her first competition.

As of March, Thomas had not started the competition category change process.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Luz Long’s Olympic silver medal for sale from Jesse Owens long jump duel

Jesse Owens, Luz Long

One of the most consequential Olympic medals ever awarded is on the auction block — the silver medal captured in 1936 by Germany’s Luz Long, the long jumper who walked arm in arm through the stadium with Jesse Owens to celebrate their triumphs while Adolf Hitler watched from the stands.

Long’s family has decided to auction the medal and other collectibles from the German jumper’s career. Long was killed in World War II in 1943.

The auction house selling the medal has labeled Long’s collection “The Beacon of Hope.”

“The story of Jesse Owens never seems to end,” said Long’s granddaughter, Julia Kellner-Long, in a phone interview from her house in Munich. “My grandfather has always been inspirational and influential in the way I choose to see the world, and this is something I think the world outside needs. Now more than ever. It gives us hope.”

Long cemented himself in Olympic lore during the Berlin Games when he was the first to congratulate Owens on his triumph in the long jump. Later they walked around the stadium together and posed for pictures.

There’s also the story Owens told of Long approaching him after he fouled on his first two attempts in the preliminary round. With only one more try to make the final, Owens said Long suggested he take off a foot in front of the board, to assure he wouldn’t foul on his last try. Owens took that advice and went on to win the title — one of four he captured in Berlin — with a then-Olympic record jump of 8.06 meters (26 feet, 5 1/2 inches).

Owens was Black, and his stirring success at those Olympics was said to have annoyed Hitler by puncturing the Nazi myth of Aryan racial superiority.

The camaraderie between Owens and Long, and the relationship that ensued between the men and their families, are often held up as the prime example of what the Olympics are supposed to be about — a peaceful coming together of people from different countries and cultures who set their differences aside in the spirit of competition.

“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me,” Owens said, years later. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace.”

The decision to sell came shortly after Luz’s son (and Julia’s father), Kai, died at age 80. Kellner-Long said the great responsibility of preserving her grandfather’s memorabilia should be passed onto an individual, or museum, that has the time and resources to do so. The family also wanted to use the sale to rekindle the story of Long and Owens.

“Even 86 years later, shining a beacon of hope is an important and realistic value, especially in a time of increasing racism, increasing exclusion and hatred,” Kellner-Long said.

The auction house started the bidding for Long’s medal at $50,000, and estimated the value at somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million. The bidding runs through Oct. 15. The value of Olympic medals on the open market varies widely. One of Owens’ four gold medals from 1936 fetched $1.46 million. Bill Russell’s gold medal from the 1956 Olympics recently sold for $587,500.

David Kohler of SCP Auctions, which is conducting the sale, said the medal is about Long, but also “the story of the courageousness and the athlete and what he did there.”

Long didn’t live long enough to see his legacy play out. He was killed in 1943 in the battle of St. Pietro on the Italian island of Sardinia. Shortly before that, he wrote a letter to Owens, one he predicted would be “the last letter I shall ever write.”

In it, Long asked Owens to go to Germany after the war and find his son.

“Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we were not separated by war,” Long wrote. “I am saying — tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”

Owens and Kai Long met several times over the years, including at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in 1966. Owens later was a best man at Kai’s wedding.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson

Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!