The FGG said that FINA's changes to its policy on transgender athlete participation were "discriminatory and exclusive" ©Getty Images

The Federation of Gay Games (FGG) has criticised the decision taken here by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) to severely restrict the participation of transgender athletes in women's aquatics events as "discriminatory and exclusive".

FINA's Extraordinary Congress voted at the Puskás Aréna on Sunday (June 19) to change its policy, with transgender women effectively banned if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.

Individuals are now required to have completed transition by the age of 12 to compete in women's competitions.

FINA President Husain Al-Musallam also announced that the governing body hopes to create an "open category", claiming that this would ensure "that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level".

The move has divided opinion, attracting praise from opponents to the inclusion of transgender competitors in women's sport, and criticism from LGBTQ+ groups and transgender athlete advocates.

The FGG, which seeks to use its flagship Gay Games to promote equality for all and respect for the LGBTQ+ community across the globe, has added its voice to the criticism of the decision.

"The decision by FINA to ban transwomen from competing with the gender they identify as is discriminatory and exclusive, and creating a separate category for a small number of competitors is only exacerbating the current inaccurate and hurtful treatment of trans and non-binary athletes," the FGG said.

It added: "The FGG will continue to acknowledge that only participants can identify their gender, and a participant should never feel left out or forced to participate in a Gay Games competition that does not align with their identity."

The FGG seeks to use the Gay Games to promote respect for the LGBTQ+ community ©Getty Images
The FGG seeks to use the Gay Games to promote respect for the LGBTQ+ community ©Getty Images

FGG vice-president Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett called for a review of FINA's decision.

"As a non-binary athlete, I would expect world governing bodies to be far more careful about the language and hyperbolic usage of trans exclusionary language which surfaced from their decision and would hope an urgent review of this decision, and the subsequent consequences towards trans and non-binary athletes will be investigated immediately," Hyyrylainen-Trett said.

FINA President Husain Al-Musallam had said following the decision that "we have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions".

He also insisted that "FINA will always welcome every athlete", and claimed that the "open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level".

FINA's changes have sparked further debate on the inclusion of transgender athletes in women's competition, and brought the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) framework which recommends more flexibility for International Federations to set their own policies under the spotlight.

FINA President Husain Al-Musallam insisted the governing body needed
FINA President Husain Al-Musallam insisted the governing body needed "to protect competitive fairness at our events" ©FINA

The IOC's updated stance in November last year moved away from its 2015 consensus statement, requiring athletes seeking to compete in the female category to lower their testosterone to below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months.

After yesterday's IOC Executive Board meeting, Presidential spokesperson Mark Adams defended the framework following recent criticism, notably from tennis legend Martina Navratilova.

"What we are clear about is that each sport should and does know best how to look at not only by sport but also by its disciplines where there is or isn’t an advantage at this stage," said Adams.

He also admitted that criticism was "inevitable", and said it was a "very difficult situation to deal with" in a bid to ensure "fairness and inclusivity."

Following FINA's decision, the International Rugby League implemented a decision that had already been taken by rugby union governing body World Rugby and banned transgender players from women's competitions until further notice.

Two of the biggest Summer Olympic International Federations - FIFA for football and World Athletics - have also confirmed that they will review their eligibility policies.