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Former Olympic gold medalist and Title IX advocate Donna de Varona applauded FINA, swimming’s international governing body, for approving a new policy that would limit the participation of transgender women from competing in high-level women’s swimming events.

“I’m very proud of FINA for spending months and months and months talking to researchers, looking at science-based peer review research on the impact of puberty on male bodies and what impact that would have if you are trying to mitigate your high testosterone and if you could ever do that,” the 1964 Olympic gold medalist in swimming, told “America Reports” on Monday.

Penn transgender swimmer Lia Thomas speaks to her coach after winning the 500 meter freestyle during an NCAA college swimming meet with Harvard Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
(AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

FINA announced its new “gender inclusion policy” on Sunday that only permits swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 to compete in women’s events. There was also a proposal for a new “open competition policy.” The organization said it was setting up “a new working group that will spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to set up this new category.”

The policy comes after University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas made headlines for dominating on women’s teams as a transgender athlete, raising questions of fairness as scientists determined that transgender women athletes who went through typical male puberty during adolescence still hold a competitive edge over their biologically female competitors.


Pointing to the 1976 Olympics, de Verona recalled how the world “watched the East German swimmers who had been pumped with testosterone destroy our women’s team.”

“Many of those women are still suffering from having to compete in an uneven playing field,” she said.

“But,” she added. “Swimming has been very definitive in what they have done, and they’ve taken their time, and I’m very proud of them.”

Megan Rapinoe #15 of OL Reign looks on before the game against the San Diego Wave at Lumen Field on April 14, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. 

Megan Rapinoe #15 of OL Reign looks on before the game against the San Diego Wave at Lumen Field on April 14, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The FINA decision faced immediate backlash from LGBTQ advocates and athletes, among them U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who spoke out on Sunday about transgender inclusion in sports.

De Verona said that while she applauds Rapinoe for her “passion and her humanity,” she feels compelled “to call her out on the fact that no one has lost a podium or an opportunity.”

“When you are talking about elite sports, you are talking about numbers and opportunities and there are very few, and you work a lifetime for that. So…it was unfair to those swimmers, and so I will call out Megan on that,” she said.


“Lia Thomas, in leaving the men’s team, and she did follow the rules, she followed policy, left an open spot that could have been filled…got on the women’s team and she did not just displace one varsity swimmer who trained all her life since the age of 10, but displaced three swimmers from competing and getting on the bus to go to the Ivy League championships.”


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