Tom Daley "furious" at ban on transgender swimmers

Tom Daley and Lia Thomas

Tom Daley has revealed he is “furious” at FINA after the governing body voted to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s elite swimming races.

The new policy, which was passed with 71 percent of the vote, effectively bans any transgender woman from competing if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.

FINA also announced it would aim to establish an ‘open’ category at competitions for swimmers whose gender identity is different than their birth sex.

Daley, an Olympic diving champion, is an athlete governed by FINA. Speaking at the British LGBT Awards, he said the ruling was “not on”.

“I was furious,” he told iNews. “Anyone that’s told that they can’t compete or can’t do something they love just because of who they are, it’s not on.

“It’s something I feel really strongly about. Giving trans people the chance to share their side.”

The 28-year-old, who is openly gay, has often spoken out about LGBTQ+ issues.

FINA established a working group in November to examine the eligibility of transgender athletes competing in its events.

British diver Tom Daley

Scientific, legal and athlete representatives, who spoke to FINA’s Congress before its members voted on the policy, were part of the working group.

The debate surrounding transgender athletes in swimming was thrown into the spotlight when Lia Thomas made headlines in the United States last year.

She became the first openly transgender athlete to win a NCAA Division I title when she won the women’s 500 yards freestyle while representing the University of Pennsylvania.

After the decision to ban transgender swimmers was made, FINA president Husain Al-Musallam emphasised the governing body was trying to “protect the rights of our athletes to compete” but also “protect competitive fairness”.

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas

“FINA will always welcome every athlete,” he said. “The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level.

“This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.”

But the decision has been criticised by Athlete Ally, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group who called the new policy “discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 International Olympic Committee principles”.

Anne Lieberman, Athlete Ally’s director of policy and programmes, warned of the human rights issues surrounding the ban on transgender women.

“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as it is laid out in the policy polices 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.”

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