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Cate Campbell, a four-time Olympic swimming gold medalist for Australia, backed FINA’s new policies regarding transgender athlete participation on Monday.
In a speech to FINA’s congress, Campbell said the separation of the gender categories in swimming is one of the only reasons why women can be seen as equals in the sport. She said removing the distinction “would be to the detriment of female athletes everywhere.”
“We see you, value you and accept you. My role; however, is also to stand up here, having asked our world governing body, FINA, to investigate, deliberate and uphold the cornerstone of fairness in elite women’s competition,” she said, via The Guardian. “And it pains me that this part of my role, may injure, infuriate and potentially alienate people from an already-marginalized trans community.”
She said she had thought about what she was going to say and came to the conclusion that no matter what she said on the topic it would “anger” people.
“However, I am asking everyone to take a breath, to absorb before reacting. Listen to the science and experts. Listen to the people who stand up here and tell you how difficult it has been to reconcile inclusion and fairness,” she added. “That men and women are physiologically different cannot be disputed. We are only now beginning to explore and understand 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 and seen as equals in sport, can only do so because of the gender category distinction. To remove that distinction would be to the detriment of female athletes everywhere.”
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. The rulings went into effect Monday.
FINA set specific eligibility requirements in a 24-page policy. There was also a proposal for a 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.”
The Australian Olympic Committee also backed FINA’s decision.
“While inclusivity must be respected, fairness in competition is a core value of sport,” an Australian Olympic Committee spokesman told Reuters. “FINA has made a decision based on the circumstances in the sport of swimming to achieve that balance.”