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Swimming bosses have voted to ban trans women from all elite competitions unless they have completed their gender transition by the age of 12, and therefore not gained any of the alleged physical advantages of going through male puberty.

FINA, the world governing body for swimming, came to their decision at an extraordinary general congress in Budapest, with 71 per cent of members voting for the ban. At the same time, a vote to create a working group to establish an “open” category, where those whose gender identity differs from their birth sex will be permitted to compete, was also passed.

The congress heard evidence from a task force which comprised experts in medicine, sport and the law.

The issue of trans women competing in elite swimming competitions was thrust into the spotlight in March this year when American Lia Thomas, who had previously swum for Pennsylvania’s men’s team before commencing hormone replacement therapy on 2019, took first the women’s 500-yard freestyle in the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition.

While Thomas and other trans and non-binary athletes have received support from some members of Team USA, others have maintained that the women’s competition should be closed to anyone who has gone through male puberty, arguing that even after hormone replacement therapy, some of the benefits of male puberty remain, giving trans swimmers an unfair advantage.

FINA’s decision follows an announcement by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the organisation which oversees elite cycling competitions, who last week doubled the length of time a rider transitioning from male to female must report low testosterone levels before being allowed to compete.

Competitors are currently required to show that the level of testosterone in their blood does not exceed five nanomoles per litre (nmol/L) for a period of one year but, from 1 July, the level permitted will be 2.5 nmol/L for a two-year period.

A UCI statement read: “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.

“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.”

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