The swimming governing body, World Aquatics, suffered an embarrassing blow as they attempted to become the first sports organization to introduce a transgender category. Little did they know what was to come!
Ban on Transgender Swimmers
The debut of ‘open’ races for transgender swimmers at the World Cup meeting in Berlin faced an embarrassing setback in an attempt to transform the sport.
The idea came after the swimming governing body decided to ban all transgender athletes from competing in categories that were different from their birth-assigned gender.
After the ban on transgender swimmers, the swimming governing body came under fire, so it created the transgender category as a “pioneering pilot project” to promote its “unwavering commitment to inclusivity.”
World Aquatics introduced a new category for athletes identifying with a gender different from their birth sex after debates about fairness have been the hot topic as transgender swimmers dominate areas of the sport.
The ‘open’ category was designed to include 50-meter and 100-meter races in all strokes, aiming to foster inclusivity and equal opportunities in elite competitions, but something happened that caused it to massively backfire.
This move was part of a pioneering pilot project aimed at breaking barriers and offering transgender athletes a platform to compete without stigma and claims of unfairness.
Despite the excitement surrounding the introduction of the ‘open’ category, no swimmers registered for the events at the Berlin World Cup meeting, embarrassing the organizers of the category.
The governing body for swimming admitted, “Following the close of registration for the open category competitions at the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup – Berlin 2023 meet scheduled for 6-8 October, World Aquatics can confirm that no entries have been received for the open category events.”
Lack of Participation
Faced with a lack of participation, World Aquatics announced a reevaluation of their policy regarding the Transgender category in elite swim meets.
While the open category didn’t see interest at the elite level, the governing body is exploring the possibility of incorporating these races in masters events in the future.
World Aquatics had altered their policy last year, prohibiting transgender women from participating in elite female events, after transgender swimmer Lia Thomas dominated the women’s game despite being a mediocre competitor in the male category.
Lia Thomas Kicked Off Policy Change
American Lia Thomas’ case, being the first known transgender swimmer to secure a national college title, played a significant role in shaping the policy change.
World Aquatics became the first major Olympic sport to attempt to establish a third competition category apart from traditional men’s and women’s events.
The Berlin World Cup marked the return of Adam Peaty, a three-time Olympic champion, to competitive swimming after a hiatus focusing on mental health.
The issue of transgender athlete participation continues to be a topic of debate in various sports, with discussions ongoing to strike the right balance between inclusion and fairness.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Beatriz Vera