Lia Thomas ineligible for Olympics after new FINA ruling on transgender athletes

The new standards make it harder for men to transition and compete in women's divisions by prohibiting male athletes to compete as women if they went through male puberty.

FINA is an international governing body for the sport that affects Olympic events.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) overwhelmingly voted on Sunday to revoke eligibility for transgender athletes who wish to compete based on gender identity.

The new standards make it harder for men to transition and compete in women's divisions by prohibiting male athletes to compete as women if they went through male puberty. 

The measure passed with 71.5% approval from the FINA Member Federations. The association is an international governing body for the sport that affects Olympic events. 

Athletes who transitioned after the age of 12, or achieved Tanner Stage 2 in puberty, will be barred from competing as a female. 

"We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions," FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said.

Testosterone levels must also be monitored below 2.5 nmol/L since the start of transitioning before undergoing puberty. A breach in the limitation could result in disqualification for "anti-doping" violations.

[RELATED: WATCH: Female swimmer wants to hold the NCAA accountable]

In addition, FINA will propose the adoption of an "open" category for athletes to compete based on gender identity. The change is under consideration and will be evaluated by a working group over a six-month duration.

According to World Swimming Coaches Association Vice President George Block, who spoke with Campus Reform in his own capacity as a coach, the policy "respects real science."

"Our role as coaches is to take care of all kids," Block said, "and I think FINA did a good job of protecting women's sports."

In May, the World Swimming Coaches Association advised FINA to consider an "open" division to deter men from competing against women. According to the organization, transgender inclusion could not "co-exist" with the current "competitive model" because it does not account for fair competition.

"This doesn't prohibit a transgender division from forming in national sports organizations and collegiate sports clubs, and it still allows it to happen," Block said.

"They had scientists, they had human rights lawyers, they had athletes, even judges from the Court of Arbitration for Sports on there so they know how this all works," he continued, "and it was very, very thoughtful."

Block noted that allowing transgender athletes to compete based on gender identity only analyzed "human rights" for transgender athletes. At the same time, it ignored the "human rights of the female" athletes.

"They [the IOC] ignored those human rights," he said.

FINA is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is responsible for "administering international competitions in Aquatics."

The new gender policy will impact FINA-driven competitions such as FINA World Championships, World Cups, and World Leagues, and World Series. Athletes will have to meet the new inclusion standards to successfully set new World Records, as well.

Athletes will also have to conform to the standards to be eligible for Olympic qualifier meets.

"At the elite levels, in these particular set of meets, these are the rules for getting in, and they said specifically in order to protect women's sports," Block noted.

[RELATED: Lia Thomas eyes the 2024 Olympics]

The decision pulled the plug on former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas' aspirations to compete on the international stage as a woman. 

Thomas acknowledged his intent to compete in the Olympics during a recent Good Morning America interview

However, the new FINA standards will make Thomas ineligible as he underwent male puberty prior to his transition in college.

Block suggested the next course of action the transgender community should take it to establish separate divisions and leagues.

"I think FINA did a good job of protecting women's sports, but it left taking care of transgender kids up to both the local swimming communities in each country, and the transgender communities," Block said. "I think now instead of just complaining about it, they should probably do something. Instead of saying, 'we need to get into these other events,' form your own events. Form your own organization, govern yourself."

The gender inclusion policy was drafted after members delivered testimonials of a select working group established in 2021 to the FINA Extraordinary General Congress in 2022. 

The working group consisted of three specialty teams including athletes, scientists and medical experts, and legal and human rights advocates.

Campus Reform contacted FINA for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

Follow @Alexaschwerha1 on Twitter.