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Swimming’s new transgender policy could impact other sports

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Bans on transgender women in international swimming and rugby this week opened the door for track and field to consider following suit in what could turn into a wave of policy changes in Olympic sports.

The announcement Sunday by swimming’s governing body, FINA, was followed quickly by a show of support from World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, who was in Hungary for the swimming world championships. He said FINA’s decision was in the best interest of swimming and that his own federation, which oversees track and field and other running sports, would review its policies on transgender athletes and intersex athletes at the end of the year.

“If we ever get pushed into a corner to that point where we’re making a judgment about fairness or inclusion, I will always fall down on the side of fairness,” Coe said.

Experts viewed that as a signal that World Athletics officials could use the FINA precedent to block all transgender and intersex athletes — the latter referred to by clinical terminology as having differences in sex development — from competing in women’s events.

FINA’s new policy bans all transgender women from elite competitions if they didn’t begin medical treatment to suppress testosterone production before either the onset of puberty or by age 12, whichever comes later. USA Swimming put its own policy in place earlier this year, with the idea that it would eventually follow FINA’s lead, but this week said it would need time to see how FINA’s policy affects its own.

Should track and field adopt a similar rule to FINA, Caster Semenya, an athlete with differences in sex development, still would be kept out of races at her chosen distance, 800 meters.

It also could bar 200-meter silver medalist Christine Mboma of Namibia, who also is an athlete with differences in sex development and expected to contend for the title at world championships in Oregon next month. Currently, World Athletics rules governing such athletes don’t apply to the 200-meter race.

“By later this year, I think (World Athletics) will have announced a policy that is very similar to swimming,” said Ross Tucker, a science and research consultant for World Rugby. “And they will say that if ever a person has gone through male puberty and has obtained the advantages associated with testosterone, they can’t compete in women’s sports.”

The International Rugby League also barred transgender womenfrom women’s matches until more studies allow for the sport’s regulators to come up with a cohesive inclusion policy. And the International Cycling Union last week updated its eligibility rules for transgender athletes; it increased the period during which transgender athletes on women’s teams must lower their testosterone level to two years rather than one.

FIFA, which runs soccer, said it is “currently reviewing its gender eligibility regulations in consultation with expert stakeholders.”

Individual sports are taking the lead because of the International Olympic Committee framework that was introduced last November and went into effect in March placed all sports in charge of their own rules regarding testosterone. It replaced an IOC policy that had allowed transgender women who had been on hormone replacement therapy for at least 12 months to compete in the Olympics against other women.

The new guidance, which is not binding, recommends that testosterone levels should not determine whether someone is eligible to compete — a stance that World Athletics has not adopted.

Tucker said he expected maybe the “big four or five” international sports federations to follow FINA’s suit, but not all the others — in part because many are smaller operations that don’t have science and legal teams to do the research for thorough policies. FINA had assigned three groups, athletes, science and medicine and legal and human rights, to work on its policy.

FINA’s decisions and those of other organizations are likely to be challenged either in court or at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, meaning federations that adopt a rule will need scientific studies and legal funding to back up the policy.

“What swimming did was not easy, and it certainly wasn’t cheap,” Tucker said.

Coe said FINA “spent $1,000,000 (on legal fees). We’re not FIFA but we’re not bereft. But there are other sports that are genuinely fearful that, if they go down that road, they’ll bankrupt themselves defending this.”

Athletes at the world swimming championships in Hungary mostly steered clear of commenting on the new transgender policy this week.

“I think the question is, if you’re a woman out there and you’re racing someone else, like, how would you feel doing that? It’s just about fairness in sport,” said Australia’s Moesha Johnson, who finished fourth in the 1500 meters.

The FINA decision also sent national swim federations scrambling.

Swimming Australia said it endorses fair and equitable competition for all athletes, adding in a statement: “We also firmly believe in inclusivity and the opportunity for all athletes to experience the sport of swimming in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity and expression.”

In the U.S., the NCAA, which governs college sports, had sought clarity from USA Swimming because of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, who competed on Penn’s women’s team.

USA Swimming created a policy requiring evidence that an athlete had maintained a testosterone level less than 5 nanomoles per liter for a minimum period of 36 months. But the NCAA decided against immediately adopting that rule, which would have made Thomas ineligible for the national championships in March, where she won the 500-yard individual title.

When it released its policy, USA Swimming said it would remain in place until FINA adopted its own policy. In a statement Wednesday, USA Swimming said it would “now take our time to understand the impact of this international standard on our existing policy.”

Thomas has said she would like to pursue the Olympics; if she does, her times would likely put her in the mix to at least earn a spot at Olympic trials for the 2024 Games in Paris.

The Thomas case might ultimately be viewed as the tipping point in international competition, given the relative lack of transgender athletes in elite sports, Tucker said.

“People aren’t really very good at understanding an issue until it’s right in front of them as a physical thing,” Tucker said, “They almost have to be punched in the nose before they think something is real. And Lia Thomas made this real.”

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AP Sports Writers Ciaran Fahey and Graham Dunbar contributed.

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International

Canadian swimmer says she was drugged at world championships

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Canadian swimmer Mary-Sophie Harvey says she was drugged on the final day of the world aquatics championships and suffered a rib sprain and a concussion.

Harvey said in an Instagram post that there is a four-to-six hour window where she has no recollection of what happened, and that she remembers waking up with the Canadian team manager and doctor by her bedside.

She also posted photos of bruises on her body.

Montreal’s Harvey competed in the women’s 200-metre individual medley at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, finishing eighth. She also earned a bronze medal in the women 4×200-metre freestyle relay after swimming in the preliminaries.

“We are aware there was an incident the night before departure from Budapest,” Swimming Canada spokesman Nathan White said in an email to The Canadian Press. “As soon as team staff became aware, Mary received excellent medical treatment from our team physician on site, and was cleared to travel home.

“Staff have been in contact with Mary since her return and we are offering her support. We continue to gather information on the situation, and the file has been forwarded to our independent Safe Sport officer.”

Harvey said she debated on whether to write her post, but said “these situations sadly happen too many times for me to stay silent.”

“I’m still scared to think about the unknowns of that night,” she wrote. “I’m still in a way, ashamed of what happened, and I think I always will be. … But I won’t let this event define me.”

The 22-year-old Harvey competed for Canada in last year’s Tokyo Olympics. She’s scheduled to swim in this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2022.

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Crime

New report details missed chances to stop Uvalde shooting

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A police officer armed with a rifle watched the gunman in the Uvalde elementary school massacre walk toward the campus but did not fire while waiting for permission from a supervisor to shoot, according to a sweeping critique released Wednesday on the tactical response to the May tragedy.

Some of the 21 victims at Robb Elementary School, including 19 children, possibly “could have been saved” on May 24 had they received medical attention sooner while police waited more than an hour before breaching the fourth-grade classroom, a review by a training center at Texas State University for active shooter situations found.

The report is yet another damning assessment of how police failed to act on opportunities that might have saved lives in what became the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

“A reasonable officer would have considered this an active situation and devised a plan to address the suspect,” read the report published by the university’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program.

Authors of the 26-page report said their findings were based off video taken from the school, police body cameras, testimony from officers on the scene and statements from investigators. Among their findings:

— It appeared that no officer waiting in the hallway during the shooting ever tested to see if the door to the classroom was locked. The head of Texas’ state police agency has also faulted officers on the scene for not checking the doors.

— The officers had “weapons (including rifles), body armor (which may or may not have been rated to stop rifle rounds), training, and backup. The victims in the classrooms had none of these things.”

— When officers finally entered the classroom at 12:50 p.m. — more than an hour after the shooting began — they were no better equipped to confront the gunman than they had been up to that point.

—”Effective incident command” never appears to have been established among the multiple law enforcement agencies that responded to the shooting.

The gunman, an 18-year-old with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, entered the building at 11:33 a.m. Before that a Uvalde police officer, who the report did not identify, saw the gunman carrying a rife toward the west hall entrance. The officer asked a supervisor for permission to open fire, but the supervisor “either did not hear or responded too late,” the report said.

When the officer turned back toward the gunman, he already gone inside “unabated,” according to the report.

The report is one of multiple fact-finding reviews launched in the aftermath of the worst school shooting in Texas history. A committee formed by Texas legislators has also interviewed more than 20 people, including officers who were on the scene, behind closed doors for several weeks. It is unclear when they will release their findings.

It follows testimony last month in which Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told the state Senate that the police response was an “abject failure.” He pinned particular blame on Chief Pete Arredondo, saying that as on-scene commander the Uvalde schools police chief made “terrible decisions” and stopped officers from confronting the gunman earlier.

Arredondo has tried to defend his actions, telling the Texas Tribune that he didn’t consider himself the commander in charge of operations and that he assumed someone else had taken control of the law enforcement response. He said he didn’t have his police and campus radios but that he used his cellphone to call for tactical gear, a sniper and the classroom keys.

According to he report released Wednesday, Arredondo and another Uvalde police officer spent 13 minutes in the school hallway during the shooting discussing tactical options, whether to use snipers and how to get into the classroom windows.

“They also discussed who has the keys, testing keys, the probability of the door being locked, and if kids and teachers are dying or dead,” the report read.

McCraw said police had enough officers and firepower on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they would have found the door to the classroom where he was holed up unlocked if they had bothered to check it.

A lawyer for Arredondo and a spokeswoman for the Uvalde city police department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Arredondo is on leave from his job with the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and resigned from his position as a city councilor last week.

Public leaders, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, initially praised the police response in Uvalde. Abbott said officers reacted quickly and ran toward the gunfire with “amazing courage” to take out the killer, thereby saving lives. He later said he was misled. In the days and weeks after the shooting, authorities gave conflicting and incorrect accounts of what happened. The fallout has driven recriminations and rifts between local at state authorities. On Tuesday, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and state Sen. Roland Gutierrez released a letter asking Abbott to move administration of a victims relief fund from the local prosecutor’s office to the Texas Department of Emergency Management. They wrote that they’ve received numerous complaints about District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee, “including the failure to timely deliver victim’s compensation resources to those in need.″

Busbee’s office declined to comment Wednesday.

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Bleiberg reported from Dallas.

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Find more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

Paul J. Weber And Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press

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