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Australian researchers have said the latest decision to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s swimming competitions isn’t based on actual science.
Associate Professor Ada Cheung, who leads the Trans Health Research program in partnership with the University of Melbourne, has criticised the ruling for being based on people’s ‘opinions’, according to Sydney Morning Herald.
She said: “We actually don’t know if there’s a biological advantage for trans women over cisgender women because the science is not clear.
“FINA’s report is really based on a group of people’s opinion, it’s not a gold standard. No research has really been done into trans female swimmers or any elite athletes that are transgender.
"The jury is out.”
Dr Patrice Jones, a Victoria University researcher leading the study examining the effects of gender-affirming hormone therapy, also told the news outlet there was a lack of evidence to support FINA’s decision.
Jones said: “It opens the gates for sporting bodies at elite and grass-root levels to make further exclusive decisions.
"This risks the wellbeing of everyday trans people and sends harmful message that they are not accepted in sports and broader active spaces.”
These remarks come after 71 FINA members voted to stop transgender athletes from competing in elite races unless they have completed their transition by age 12.
Instead, a separate 'open category' will be established for transgender athletes who do not meet the criteria.
Before the ruling, the organisation heard from many experts and champion female athletes, including Australian gold medallist Cate Campbell, who supported the ban, according to The Guardian.
In her address, she noted how it ‘pained’ her that her stance would anger the LBGTQI+ community but also expressed that female athletes struggle to be seen as ‘equals’ in the sport.
She said: “It pains me that this part of my role may injure, infuriate and potentially alienate people from an already-marginalised trans community.”
Before adding: “However, I am asking everyone to take a breath, to absorb before reacting.
"Listen to the science and experts. Listen to the people who stand up here and tell you how difficult it has been to reconcile inclusion and fairness.”
She continued: “Women, who have fought long and hard to be included and seen as equals in sport, can only do so because of the gender category distinction. To remove that distinction would be to the detriment of female athletes everywhere.”
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