World Aquatics will include transgender swimmers in its trial run of implementing an “open” category in competition, the global governing body said Tuesday.
During World Aquatics’ General Congress in Fukuoka, President Husain Al-Musallam said the first event with an open category would take place in the future but didn’t provide additional details.
“This is a very complex topic,” Al-Musallam said. “But I am delighted to tell you today that we are now making plans for the first trial of an open category, and we hope to be able to confirm all the details soon.
“Our sport must be open to everybody,” he said.
At the 2022 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, the governing body voted to ban transgender women from competing in women’s categories if they had undergone any part of the male puberty process (transitioned after the age of 12). World Aquatics also first announced its intention of creating an “open” category at last year’s General Congress.
The topic has been divisive in the world of sport, and specifically swimming, over the past 20-plus months, following the performance of Lia Thomas in the NCAA during the 2021-22 season.
Thomas, a transgender woman, won the 500 freestyle at the 2022 Women’s NCAA Championships.
Under World Aquatics rules announced last year, Thomas would be ineligible to compete in the women’s category of World Aquatics events since she didn’t begin transitioning until 2019, well into her collegiate career.
“It was very important that we protected fair competition for our female athletes,” Al-Musallam added. “But you have heard me say many times there should be no discrimination. Nobody should be excluded from our competitions.”
World Aquatics also announced that it has moved into the final stages of finalizing the relocation of its headquarters to Budapest and that Al-Musallam was elected to a new eight-year term during the General Congress on Tuesday.