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Trans swimmer Lia Thomas banned from elite women's competition; cycling toughens trans eligibility

Lia Thomas
by WorldTribune Staff / 247 Real News June 20, 2022

Swimming’s world governing body has voted to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s elite races if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.

FINA's new policy requires transgender competitors to have completed their transition by the age of 12 in order to be able to compete in women’s competitions.

NCAA women's champion Lia Thomas from Penn will not be eligible for FINA competitions or world records in female categories under the new policy.

Thomas, formerly Will Thomas and a member of the University of Pennsylvania's men's team, began transitioning in May 2019 at age 20 using hormone replacement therapy and came out as a trans woman during her junior year at Penn.

Thomas told Sports Illustrated in March that she wants to continue to compete after college, with the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials as a goal. Thomas declined to comment on the new policy to ESPN.

“Male to female transgender athletes and athletes with a 46, XY DSD (disorders of sexual development) whose legal gender or gender identity is female may only compete in FINA competition and set FINA world records in the female category if they can establish they have not experienced any part of male puberty,” said FINA Executive Director Brent Nowicki. “Athletes who want to establish their eligibility under this standard will be required to show that they have suppressed male puberty beginning as from Tanner Stage 2 or at the age of 12, whichever is later. And that they have since continuously maintained their circulating testosterone below the levels of 2.5 nanomoles per liter.”

FINA will also aim to establish an "open" category at competitions for swimmers whose gender identity is different than their birth sex.

Meanwhile, cycling's governing body, the UCI, has toughened its rules on transgender eligibility by doubling the period of time before a rider transitioning from male to female can compete.

Previous regulations required riders to have had testosterone levels below five nanomoles per litre (nmol/L) for a 12-month period prior to competition.

The UCI has changed the permitted level to 2.5 nmol/L for a 24-month period.

The UCI's transgender policy had been under review after being brought into the spotlight by British rider Emily Bridges, one of cycling's most high-profile transgender competitors.

In April, the 21-year-old - who began hormone therapy in 2021 as part of her gender dysphoria treatment - was stopped from competing in her first elite women's race by the UCI.

The world governing body said that Bridges' participation could only be allowed once her eligibility to race in international competitions was confirmed.

British Cycling also suspended its current policy, meaning transgender women are currently unable to compete at elite female events run by the organization.

The UCI said scientific studies had shown that it can take as long as two years for muscle strength and power to adapt to a "female level" while 2.5 nmol/L "corresponds to the maximum testosterone level found in 99.99% of the female population".

In a statement, the UCI said: "The latest scientific publications clearly demonstrate that the return of markers of endurance capacity to 'female level' occurs within six to eight months under low blood testosterone, while the awaited adaptations in muscle mass and muscle strength/power take much longer [two years minimum according to a recent study].

"Given the important role played by muscle strength and power in cycling performance, the UCI has decided to increase the transition period on low testosterone from 12 to 24 months."

The new rules go into effect on July 1 and mean that Bridges will not be able to compete in women's races until 2023.

Bridges said: "A lot of people still view trans women as men with male anatomies and physiologies", but added that "hormone replacement therapy has such a massive effect. The aerobic performance difference is gone after about four months.

Many sports scientists say the physiological differences established during puberty can create "significant performance advantages [between men and women]."

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