Former Olympic Swimmer Nikki Dryden Calls Bullshit On Transphobic Policy, Supports Lia Thomas

"This is going to be pointing the fingers, it’s going to be rumour based and this idea that this is actually protecting women’s sport? It’s not. This is historical discrimination against women."

nikki dryden lia thomas

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Former Olympic swimmer turned human rights lawyer Nikki Dryden has spoken out on FINA’s (the world governing swimming body) decision to effectively ban trans women from the sport, pledging to help Lia Thomas fight the ruling.

In an interview with ABC’s RN Breakfast, Dryden — a retired swimmer who represented Canada at two Olympics — told Patricia Karvelas she was disappointed by the decision.

“I’m actually really disappointed and sad that my sport now has the privilege of having one of the most discriminatory and non-human rights compatible policies in world sport and I really hope that no other sports are going to follow us,” said Dryden.

Dryden also questioned the science behind the new policy — especially because the people behind the research are still yet to be revealed.

“I think the science is flawed here,” said Dryden. “We haven’t got to see any of the names from this supposed task force – these are the scientists and human rights consultants that were consultants that were consulted. So first of all, I’d love to see who was actually behind this policy because so far they haven’t published the names of those people.

“And so the reference to science is really flawed because when you do read it, they keep comparing men to women and the science of men to women. But we’re not talking about men versus women, we’re talking about trans or intersex women versus women and so the whole basis and this rhetoric of science is actually totally flawed and underpinning this entire policy is this assumed gender bias that FINA now believes that all transgender women and all intersex women are actually men and they’re always going to be men in the eyes of FINA.”

Obviously, the main argument that has continually been thrown around in the trans sports debate is “fairness”, but Dryden was quick to point out that sport simply isn’t fair, and it’s not uncommon for people to play the sports that suit their body type.

“This idea of fairness, sport isn’t really fair,” said Dryden. “I was never trained to care about the person in the next lane and whether or not they were competing fairly. We were trained to swim in our own lane and do the best that we could do.”

Dryden also noted the inherent transphobia in the policy, which is built on the false notion that trans and intersex women are men, rather than the fact that trans and intersex women are women and should be treated as such.

“Unfortunately one of the primary things that the IOC recommended was that you can’t presume an advantage just because someone looks and appears to be more masculine and unfortunately, that’s exactly what FINA has done with this policy,” she said. “This is going to be pointing the fingers, it’s going to be rumour based and this idea that this is actually protecting women’s sport? It’s not. This is historical discrimination against women.”

While the conversation surrounding trans participation in sport has become a worldwide phenomenon in recent weeks and months, the situation in swimming is largely centred around Penn athlete Lia Thomas — who has now been effectively banned from competing as a result of the new policy.

Dryden, however, believes that the legalities of this are questionable at best and has urged Thomas to contact her to pursue a legal fight.

“As a lawyer, if Lia Thomas is listening, call me,” said Dryden. “I’d love to take this to court all the way up to the court of arbitration of sport because first of all, there’s no way this could stand up internationally under human rights rules and universal principles of human rights. But this won’t stand up in a lot of domestic courts as well. Australia, Canada, we all have human rights and anti-discrimination legislation and I just don’t see how this is going to pass.”

It has only been one day since FINA’s new policy was introduced and we are already seeing the knock-on impacts of the ruling for sport more broadly, with rugby league announcing on Tuesday that trans athletes will not be allowed to play in international events until further research is conducted.