NCAA opens door for trans swimmer in national championships

NCAA Swimming
The field stays tight at the start of the women’s 800 meter freestyle final during the Conoco Phillips USA National Swimming Championships at Stanford University’s Avery Aquatic Center on August 6, 2011 in Palo Alto, California. |

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has effectively paved the way for trans-identified swimmer Lia Thomas to compete in the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships next month.

In an announcement released last week, the NCAA said it would not change the standards for trans-identified biological men who wish to compete in the 2022 Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

The college’s athletic watchdog said it has no plans to change the rules governing the testosterone levels a trans-identified competitor can have and still be eligible to compete in women’s championships.

The decision was based on the “recommendation of the Administrative Subcommittee of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to the NCAA Board of Governors.”

“The subcommittee has decided that implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships. “, reads the press release.

In January, the NCAA approved new guidelines allowing individual sports to decide their policies regarding the participation of trans-identified athletes, echoing guidelines recently promulgated by the International Olympic Committee.

USA Swimming, which oversees competitive swimming in the United States, has proposed a policy requiring trans-identified female swimmers to have a testosterone concentration of less than 5 nanomoles per liter for 36 months before they can compete in women’s competition, according to Swimming. World.

Additionally, athletes should show “evidence that the athlete’s prior physical development as a male, mitigated by any medical intervention, does not give the athlete a competitive advantage over the athlete’s cisgender female competitors” . Such a determination would be made by a panel.

Instead of following USA Swimming’s policy, the NCAA will continue its previous policy requiring trans-identified athletes to show a threshold of 10 nanomoles per liter. It is unclear whether Thomas will be eligible based on these criteria.

The NCAA policy, which is due to take effect with the 2022 winter championships, requires trans-identified athletes to “document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks prior to their sport’s championship tryouts.” .

Beginning with the 2022-23 academic year, “transgender student-athletes will require documented levels at the start of their season and a second documentation six months after the first.”

“They will also need documented testosterone levels four weeks before Championship trials. Full implementation would begin with the 2023-24 academic year,” the NCAA added in a January announcement.

Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania senior who had previously competed for years on the men’s swim team, gained national attention for competing on the women’s team this season, setting records in the process.

While Thomas has won support from LGBT advocacy groups, the athlete’s participation has been criticized by other members of Penn’s women’s swim team and even by a USA Swimming official who resigned in sign of protest.

Earlier this month, retired Olympic swimmer Nancy Hagshead-Makar wrote a letter to the University of Pennsylvania and the Ivy League on behalf of 16 members of Penn’s women’s swim team and members family members expressing concern over policies allowing biological men to compete in women’s competition. They argued that when it comes to athletic competition, “the biology of sex is a separate issue from a person’s gender identity.”

“Penn’s women’s swim team has over 40 women, but only 18 of us are chosen to compete in the culmination of our year-end work: the Ivy Championships,” the letter read. “Most important to us is that the inclusion of Lia with unfair biological advantages means we have lost competitive opportunities. Some of us have lost records.

The letter came after USA Swimming, which oversees competitive swimming in the United States, issued a policy to ensure that “athletes competing in the female competitive category who have transitioned from being assigned a biological male sex to birth, do not have an unfair advantage over their cisgender competitors in elite events.

The swimmers voiced their objection to Thomas’ participation anonymously, saying they were “told that if we come out against [Thomas’] inclusion in women’s competitions, that we would be removed from the team or that we would never have a job offer.

“When the media attempted to reach us, these reporters were told that coaches and athletes were prohibited from speaking to them,” the letter said.

Some of Thomas’ teammates spoke anonymously to sports website OutKick about their objection to Thomas’ inclusion in the team.

A teammate claimed there was a negative climate within the swim team resulting from Thomas’ performance.

“They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in, they’re going to lose,” she said. “Usually they can get behind the blocks and know they’ve trained all of their competitors, and they’re going to win and give it their all.”

“Now they have to go behind the blocks knowing whatever happens, they don’t have a chance to win… I think that really affects everyone,” she added.

In February, the university released an unsigned statement it said depicts several team members expressing “full support” for Thomas, pushing back against comments from other team members criticizing Thomas’ participation.

“The sentiments put forward by an anonymous member of our team are not representative of the sentiments, values ​​and opinions of the entire Penn team, made up of 39 women from diverse backgrounds,” the statement read.

The university also released a statement in January reiterating its support for Thomas, saying it wants to create “a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our student-athletes.”

“Thomas has met or exceeded all NCAA protocols for the past two years for a transgender student-athlete to compete for a women’s team,” the university said. “She will continue to represent Penn’s women’s swim team in competition this season.”

Swimming World reports that Thomas will be ranked first in three events and second in one event at the Ivy League Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships this week. Thomas is favored to win the 200m freestyle, 500m freestyle and 1650m freestyle events.

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