A World Aquatics working group is looking into the creation of the "open category" ©Getty Images

World Aquatics President Husain Al-Musallam has admitted that it is "too early" to add a category that will allow transgender athletes to compete at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka.

Work is underway at the global governing body for swimming, artistic swimming, open water swimming, diving, high diving and water polo to establish the "open category".

World Aquatics agreed last year to set up the category that can give transgender athletes a chance to race on the big stage after effectively banning them from participating in women's competitions.

Al-Musallam has previously claimed that the open category "will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level".

A working group has been created by World Aquatics to look at the "most effective ways" of setting up the category.

It was announced in June that the working group would spend the next six months formulating participation rules.

Al-Musallam insisted that there had been no delays in the process but admitted that World Aquatics needed more time, casting doubt over whether the category will be in place for next year's World Aquatics Championships.

"For the transgender [participation], the team are working on the policy," said Al-Musallam.

"When that has been completed, which we are expecting in three or four months, then we will discuss with Fukuoka."

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of the United States has spoken of her ambition to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics ©Getty Images
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of the United States has spoken of her ambition to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics ©Getty Images

Japanese city Fukuoka is scheduled to stage the World Aquatics Championships from July 14 to 30 next year.

Asked whether the category will be established in time for the event, Al-Musallam added: "It’s too early for this."

The debate on transgender participation in women's sport has become increasingly polarised.

Critics have argued that World Aquatics' policy is discriminatory, but the move has been welcomed on the grounds of fairness of competition by campaigners against the inclusion of transgender athletes in women's sport.

Fukuoka is set to hold the World Aquatics Championships for the second time having played host 21 years ago.

The Japanese city had been originally slated to stage the event in 2021 only for it to be pushed back by one year due to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

It was then postponed again to 2023 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Al-Musallam said he had "very high" expectations for the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka.

"I believe that the city of Fukuoka and the Japan Swimming Association can better understand the needs," added Al-Musallam.

"There will be differences than in 2001.

"We will have the high dive which is a new event for Fukuoka and new events like the mixed artistic swimming."