Not one person signed up for the ‘open’ category at the Swimming World Cup

Lia Thomas

The “open” category at the Swimming World Cup – created for trans entrants – has been cancelled after no one signed up to take part in any of the events.

In June 2022, World Aquatics (formerly known as FINA) adopted a policy specifying that trans women who wished to compete in its events must “have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond tanner stage two, or before [the] age [of] 12, whichever is later”, thus creating the so-called open category.

The category at the World Cup was created following the World Aquatics ban, which was implemented shortly after wins by trans women swimmers, including Lia Thomas in the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships in Atlanta in March last year.

In a vote, 71 per cent of the water sport’s committee’s 152 members backed the rule, described as “only a first step towards full inclusion” of trans athletes.

In a statement, the word governing body said: “Following the close of registration for the open category competitions at the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup Berlin meet scheduled for 6-8 October, World Aquatics can confirm that no entries have been received for the open category events.

“Distances in various events had been made available for the open category, introduced on a pilot basis following the adoption of the World Aquatics policy on eligibility for the men’s and women’s competition categories.

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“The World Aquatics open category working group will continue its work and engagement with the aquatics community on open category events.

“Even if there is no current demand at the elite level, the working group is planning to look at the possibility of including open category races at masters events in the future.”

James Pearce, a spokesman for World Aquatics president Husain Al-Mussallam, told the Associated Press that the policy is “not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12”, but rather is intended to dissuade trans women from women’s swimming events.

“You can’t transition by that age in most countries and hopefully you wouldn’t be encouraged to,” he added. “Basically, what they’re saying is that it is not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage.”

The news follows a string of bans from governing bodies on transgender people competing in various sports, including World Athletics’ decision in March to bar trans women who have been through puberty from female competitions.

The body’s president, Sebastian Coe, insisted that “transgender athletes should not be competing in the female category”, outlawing trans women who transitioned after puberty from competing in women’s events from 31 March. Earlier rules had allowed them to take part if their testosterone levels were sufficiently suppressed.