In a massive step back for trans rights, FINA has placed new restrictions on transgender women competing in swimming competitions.

On 19 June, the world’s swimming governing body announced its new gender inclusion policy.

Under the new set of rules, trans women who transition after the age of 12 would be effectively banned from competing in events.

Three groups collaborated on the policy after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) encouraged more research regarding performance advantage instead of relying on testosterone levels.

Before they came to an agreement, the organisation’s congress was presented with information supporting the policy – which was led by both medical and legal experts as well as athletes Cate Campbell and Summer Sanders.

According to the Associated Press, over 70% of the organisation’s congress voted in favour of the new policy.

Alongside the aforementioned regulations, FINA also announced that a “working group” is set to create an “open category” for trans athletes to compete in certain events.

James Pearce, who is the spokesperson for FINA president Husain Al-Musallam, opened up about the policy in a statement.

“This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It’s what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” he told the Associated Press.

“They’re not saying everyone should transition by age 11, that’s ridiculous. You can’t transition by that age in most countries and hopefully wouldn’t be encouraged to.

“Basically, what they’re saying is that it is not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage.”

Pearce also opened up about the “open category” portion of FINA’s announcement and stated that “no one knows how it’s going to work.”

“We need to include a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to work out how it would work,” he said.

“So there are no details of how that would work. The open category is something that will start being discussed tomorrow.”

Since the news was announced, many LGBTQ+ organisations have slammed FINA and its discriminatory policy.

HRC’s Interim President, Joni Madison, stated: “This sudden and discriminatory decision is a blatant attack on transgender athletes who have worked to comply with the longstanding policies that have allowed them to participate for years with no issues.

“We urge the FINA to rethink its policy and ensure inclusion for all athletes – including transgender women – and allow them to participate in sports free from discrimination, abuse, and harassment.”

Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally, Anne Lieberman, echoed similar sentiments in her own statement.

“FINA’s new eligibility criteria for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations is deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 International Olympic Committee framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations,” Lieberman said via NBC Sports.

The new policy, which will go into effect on 20 June, will likely impact trans swimmer Lia Thomas – who recently revealed her goal to compete in the 2024 Olympics.