World Swimming Coaches Association calls for 'Trans Division' to save girls' sports

The field stays close together early in the women's 800-meter freestyle finals during the Conoco Phillips USA Swimming National Championships at Stanford University's Avery Aquatic Center on August 6, 2011, in Palo Alto, California.
The field stays close together early in the women's 800-meter freestyle finals during the Conoco Phillips USA Swimming National Championships at Stanford University's Avery Aquatic Center on August 6, 2011, in Palo Alto, California. | Getty Images/Brian Bahr

The World Swimming Coaches Association has released a position statement on the issue of boys competing on girls' swim teams, acknowledging that their "inclusion" in girls-only competitions "cannot be balanced with fairness.” 

While emphasizing that the WSCA has “an unequivocal agenda for the sport of swimming to be experienced in an environment where everyone can partake in the sport and where everyone is treated with both dignity and respect,” the association maintained that male athletes have an unfair advantage when competing against female athletes.

The WSCA cited the “retained differences in strength, stamina and physique that are present when comparing the average female" and male as the justification for its position.

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One of the WSCA’s “key pillars” outlined in the statement declares that “categorization through birth sex remains to be the most useful and functional division relative to sporting performance” because “this categorization acknowledges the broad range of significant performance differences between the sexes.” While calling for the sport of swimming to retain “traditional sex categorization — in association with age, and, where appropriate, disability,” the WSCA expressed an openness to “finding a model of inclusion for transgender athletes.”

“Competitive fairness cannot be reconciled with self-identification into the female category in a gender-affected sport such as swimming,” the statement continued. “The average differences in strength, stamina, and physique between the sexes is significant. Transgender females are, on average, likely to retain physical advantages listed above even if testosterone suppression is utilized.” 

The WSCA weighed in on the idea of an “Open” division, where biological males who identify as female would compete against other biological males.

However, after expressing concern that “providing them with the competition that is predominantly that of competing against biological males becomes unfair to [trans-identified males],” the WSCA touted a “Trans Division” as a solution that will enable athletes of all gender identities to compete with their peers. Under such a scenario, “The Trans Females will race each other” and “The Trans Males will race each other,” referring to trans-identified males and trans-identified females, respectively. 

“There is an argument that the Trans Males have been completely lost in this debate because they are uncompetitive in our current structure. This would also allow those of indeterminate gender to be factored into such a solution.”

The WSCA concluded its statement by suggesting two options for re-categorization in competitive swimming. The first option would create a “female” category along with an “open” category, while the second option would establish a “female” category alongside a “male” category and an “open” category. Under both options, “female entrants into competition would be required to declare themselves as persons recorded as female at birth.”  

The discussion about trans-identified male athletes and their impact on women’s sports comes as Lia Thomas (formerly Will), a trans-identified male who once competed on the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s swimming team, set several records this past season while competing on the Ivy League school’s women’s swimming team. 

Earlier this year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, one of the governing bodies overseeing collegiate athletics in the U.S., adopted a policy allowing each individual sport to decide whether to allow trans-identified athletes to compete on teams that correspond with their gender identity as opposed to their biological sex. USA Swimming, which oversees competitive swimming in the U.S., unveiled a policy allowing trans-identified males to compete on the women’s swimming team if they had consistently low testosterone levels. 

Riley Gaines, a female athlete who tied with Thomas for fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle at this year’s NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship, said in an interview with Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that the association gave preferential treatment to Thomas even though they had the same score: “When we finished and I went behind the podium to collect my fifth-place trophy … they blatantly told me that Lia would hold the fifth-place trophy and that I could pose with the sixth-place trophy for photos and would be mailed a fifth-place trophy in the mail.”

When Gaines asked an NCAA official why they were giving Thomas the trophy, he insisted that awards were being given in "chronological order.” After she reminded him that they had tied, Gaines said he responded by saying, “We’re just going to give the trophy to Lia. We respect and admire your swim, but Lia needs to hold the trophy.”

Gaines also reiterated the unfairness of women having to compete against male athletes,  noting the “different lung capacities” between the sexes as well as disparities in height and testosterone levels. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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