Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

FINA’s ban on trans women competing could aid others to finally speak out<!-- wp:html --><div></div> <div> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The slickly choreographed vote belies the topic’s toxic nature as 152 people left the Budapest sun and stepped into a windowless conference room to vote on the issue tearing sport apart.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">International Swimming Federation (FINA) delegates were led to white, high-backed chairs amid lavish floral decorations in the Puskas Arena, where they were to vote on a proposal to exclude transgender competitors from the sport’s elite level. .</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, might propose a bold ban on women’s elite transgender athletes in Britain, but FINA’s move to do so last Sunday revealed the complexities of tackling such a toxic issue. Putting it to the vote gave the result a legitimacy. But it involved a clear risk.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The cornerstone of FINA’s game in Budapest, where it received a 71.5% vote for its ‘eligibility policy’ – note the deft omission of the word ‘transgender’ – was the introduction of Olympic swimmers Cate Campbell and Summer Sanders for the voters. Not easy, as more than 20 swimmers interviewed by FINA in the process of drafting this policy have not been named, fearing they will be exposed to abuse.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Australian Campbell’s intimate story of how swimming had given her an identity when she arrived in Brisbane with her family from Malawi in 2001 as an outsider – ‘a shy, tall, freckled girl with a South African accent and no self-confidence’ – was presented as a metaphor for the inclusive power of sport. “It pains me that my role here could injure, enrage and alienate an already marginalized community,” said the multiple world record holder. “I’ve struggled long and hard with what to say.” Lots of humility. No vanity. Very good optics, as the PR people like to say.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">And that was not the only way FINA moved heaven and earth to achieve the desired result. This vote was only necessary because the International Olympic Committee had ceded responsibility last November, leaving it to individual international sports federations to find a solution.</p> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">FINA voted to ban transgender people who had gone through part of male puberty</p> </div> <p class="mol-para-with-font">FINA appealed to the sentiment as it prepared delegates to agree that transgender women should only compete in elite women’s races if they have completed their gender transition by age 12.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">There was the kind of scientific clarity that the most confused Member couldn’t grapple with. A pink line for women and gray line for men on a Powerpoint chart charting how respective testosterone levels diverge as boys exit puberty – giving them an overwhelming benefit that conversion therapy cannot undo. Data was provided showing that 4,121 men broke the current world record in the women’s 50m freestyle.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The results of a “trans survey” of individual members complemented this body of evidence, showing that 83 percent were in favor of a ban. “FINA seemed to have only one story,” says one person who was in the room. “Everything pointed to the result they wanted.”</p> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">The 152 delegates voted 71 percent to essentially ban those who have switched from participating in female events</p> </div> <p class="mol-para-with-font">It was a small surprise that less than three quarters of the delegates supported the policy. Since most developing countries and countries with strict religious regimes were happy to vote against out of sheer conservatism, a number of Western European countries must have been among the 15.3 percent who pressed the ‘no’ button on their portable voting machines. Another 13.1 percent abstained.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">That same toxicity has been behind controversial aspects of vote management, the Mail on Sunday understands. Deputies saw the 24-page document proposing the ban less than 15 minutes before voting, fearing it would be leaked or pre-distributed. “That would have caused a media storm,” said a senior executive. “The limited time available to read it was not ideal.”</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">There was no room on the conference room platform for a transathlete with an opinion that conflicted with Campbell’s and Sanders’s, perhaps because of the risk it presented to the desired outcome. “The main purpose was to explain this policy,” said the source. “We didn’t want to complicate that.”</p> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been the subject of controversy over the past six months</p> </div> <p class="mol-para-with-font">It is understood that a number of human rights lawyers are considering a legal challenge to the decision, if necessary through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with the management of the vote, something they can cite.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Nikki Dryden, a Canadian former Olympic swimmer turned human rights lawyer, said the limited time available to read the document could be used as part of a legal challenge.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">“The people who voted for this policy had 14 minutes to read and vote,” Dryden said. “It’s a very technical 24-page policy. The whole thing around how [the policy] was accepted must be challenged. This is not the end. This goes all the way to CAS.”</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">FINA is convinced that it can handle any kind of legal challenge. Executive Director Brent Nowicki, who led Sunday’s presentation, is a former managing counsel at CAS, while experts engaged by FINA for the policy include James Drake QC, a London-based former CAS arbitrator. “There is more than a chance that we will face a legal challenge,” said a source. That’s why this document is so legalized. Lawyers’ fingerprints are all over it.’</p> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Cate Campbell gave a speech to Congress supporting the new legislation</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Campbell said she wanted trans athletes to be part of the wider swimming community</p> </div> <p class="mol-para-with-font">FINA can rightly claim that it actually put the matter to a vote, while bodies such as World Athletics, World Rugby and World Rowing merely drafted and implemented proposals.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The vote – albeit likely a staged vote – displays a democratic veneer that the International Rugby League failed to show when it announced on Tuesday that it would be barring male-to-female athletes from international competition, ahead of further consultations and investigation.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">That announcement showed how swimming provides cover for others. Lord Coe announced within 24 hours of the FINA vote that at the end of the year the World Athletics Council would also review the rules for transgender and DSD (sex developmental differences) athletes – who are usually born with internal testicles.</p> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">World Triathlon will soon make an announcement on its own policy, with the FINA ruling expected to have wide-ranging implications for a number of sports</p> </div> <p class="mol-para-with-font">World Triathlon will make an announcement even sooner. The sport’s UK governing body recently surveyed its members and a briefing is scheduled for a few weeks. The International Hockey Federation (IHF) is also reviewing its policy.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The opinion within several of these sports is that swimmers such as Campbell, Sanders, Sharron Davies and Britain’s Karen Pickering, who also spoke well last week, have provided a safer space for other athletes to take cover and express their views.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">“Nobody wants to take that risk,” says a source within elite triathlon. “People are still afraid to talk, but listening and reading Davies gave me courage.”</p> </div><!-- /wp:html -->

The slickly choreographed vote belies the topic’s toxic nature as 152 people left the Budapest sun and stepped into a windowless conference room to vote on the issue tearing sport apart.

International Swimming Federation (FINA) delegates were led to white, high-backed chairs amid lavish floral decorations in the Puskas Arena, where they were to vote on a proposal to exclude transgender competitors from the sport’s elite level. .

Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, might propose a bold ban on women’s elite transgender athletes in Britain, but FINA’s move to do so last Sunday revealed the complexities of tackling such a toxic issue. Putting it to the vote gave the result a legitimacy. But it involved a clear risk.

The cornerstone of FINA’s game in Budapest, where it received a 71.5% vote for its ‘eligibility policy’ – note the deft omission of the word ‘transgender’ – was the introduction of Olympic swimmers Cate Campbell and Summer Sanders for the voters. Not easy, as more than 20 swimmers interviewed by FINA in the process of drafting this policy have not been named, fearing they will be exposed to abuse.

Australian Campbell’s intimate story of how swimming had given her an identity when she arrived in Brisbane with her family from Malawi in 2001 as an outsider – ‘a shy, tall, freckled girl with a South African accent and no self-confidence’ – was presented as a metaphor for the inclusive power of sport. “It pains me that my role here could injure, enrage and alienate an already marginalized community,” said the multiple world record holder. “I’ve struggled long and hard with what to say.” Lots of humility. No vanity. Very good optics, as the PR people like to say.

And that was not the only way FINA moved heaven and earth to achieve the desired result. This vote was only necessary because the International Olympic Committee had ceded responsibility last November, leaving it to individual international sports federations to find a solution.

FINA voted to ban transgender people who had gone through part of male puberty

FINA appealed to the sentiment as it prepared delegates to agree that transgender women should only compete in elite women’s races if they have completed their gender transition by age 12.

There was the kind of scientific clarity that the most confused Member couldn’t grapple with. A pink line for women and gray line for men on a Powerpoint chart charting how respective testosterone levels diverge as boys exit puberty – giving them an overwhelming benefit that conversion therapy cannot undo. Data was provided showing that 4,121 men broke the current world record in the women’s 50m freestyle.

The results of a “trans survey” of individual members complemented this body of evidence, showing that 83 percent were in favor of a ban. “FINA seemed to have only one story,” says one person who was in the room. “Everything pointed to the result they wanted.”

The 152 delegates voted 71 percent to essentially ban those who have switched from participating in female events

It was a small surprise that less than three quarters of the delegates supported the policy. Since most developing countries and countries with strict religious regimes were happy to vote against out of sheer conservatism, a number of Western European countries must have been among the 15.3 percent who pressed the ‘no’ button on their portable voting machines. Another 13.1 percent abstained.

That same toxicity has been behind controversial aspects of vote management, the Mail on Sunday understands. Deputies saw the 24-page document proposing the ban less than 15 minutes before voting, fearing it would be leaked or pre-distributed. “That would have caused a media storm,” said a senior executive. “The limited time available to read it was not ideal.”

There was no room on the conference room platform for a transathlete with an opinion that conflicted with Campbell’s and Sanders’s, perhaps because of the risk it presented to the desired outcome. “The main purpose was to explain this policy,” said the source. “We didn’t want to complicate that.”

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been the subject of controversy over the past six months

It is understood that a number of human rights lawyers are considering a legal challenge to the decision, if necessary through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with the management of the vote, something they can cite.

Nikki Dryden, a Canadian former Olympic swimmer turned human rights lawyer, said the limited time available to read the document could be used as part of a legal challenge.

“The people who voted for this policy had 14 minutes to read and vote,” Dryden said. “It’s a very technical 24-page policy. The whole thing around how [the policy] was accepted must be challenged. This is not the end. This goes all the way to CAS.”

FINA is convinced that it can handle any kind of legal challenge. Executive Director Brent Nowicki, who led Sunday’s presentation, is a former managing counsel at CAS, while experts engaged by FINA for the policy include James Drake QC, a London-based former CAS arbitrator. “There is more than a chance that we will face a legal challenge,” said a source. That’s why this document is so legalized. Lawyers’ fingerprints are all over it.’

Cate Campbell gave a speech to Congress supporting the new legislation

Campbell said she wanted trans athletes to be part of the wider swimming community

FINA can rightly claim that it actually put the matter to a vote, while bodies such as World Athletics, World Rugby and World Rowing merely drafted and implemented proposals.

The vote – albeit likely a staged vote – displays a democratic veneer that the International Rugby League failed to show when it announced on Tuesday that it would be barring male-to-female athletes from international competition, ahead of further consultations and investigation.

That announcement showed how swimming provides cover for others. Lord Coe announced within 24 hours of the FINA vote that at the end of the year the World Athletics Council would also review the rules for transgender and DSD (sex developmental differences) athletes – who are usually born with internal testicles.

World Triathlon will soon make an announcement on its own policy, with the FINA ruling expected to have wide-ranging implications for a number of sports

World Triathlon will make an announcement even sooner. The sport’s UK governing body recently surveyed its members and a briefing is scheduled for a few weeks. The International Hockey Federation (IHF) is also reviewing its policy.

The opinion within several of these sports is that swimmers such as Campbell, Sanders, Sharron Davies and Britain’s Karen Pickering, who also spoke well last week, have provided a safer space for other athletes to take cover and express their views.

“Nobody wants to take that risk,” says a source within elite triathlon. “People are still afraid to talk, but listening and reading Davies gave me courage.”

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