Swimming - Minister wants UK sports bodies to follow FINA's lead in transgender policy

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Weekly cabinet meeting in Downing Street

(Reuters) - Sports minister Nadine Dorries said she agreed with FINA's decision to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women's swimming competitions and will encourage British governing bodies to follow suit.

Swimming's world governing body made the decision at its extraordinary general congress on Sunday after members heard a report from a transgender task force comprising leading medical, legal and sports figures.

"It is just unacceptable that trans women compete in women's sport," Dorries told LBC Radio late on Sunday. "I've been of the opinion FINA came to today for a long time, and have discussed this with my own department and established a policy.

"I'm going to encourage other sports (to do the same)... We're about to have a roundtable with all of the sports governing bodies."

Transgender rights has become a major talking point as sports seek to balance inclusion with fairness.

The debate intensified after University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women's 500-yard freestyle earlier this year.

FINA said it intended to work towards establishing an "open" category for some events that would ensure all swimmers would have the chance to compete.

"It's important that those trans women who want to compete can compete, and that they can do so fairly," Dorries added.

"Fairness should always trump inclusion as a principle."

Athlete Ally, an advocacy group for LGBTQI+ people in sport, said FINA's new eligibility criteria was "discriminatory".

"If we truly want to protect women's sports, we must include all women," the group wrote on Twitter.

British Cycling suspended its Transgender and Non-binary Participation Policy in April, while the International Cycling Union tightened its rules on transgender participation last week.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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