Healthcare

NCAA studying USA Swimming’s new transgender athletes policy

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The NCAA on Wednesday said it will review USA Swimming’s new policy for transgender athletes, which holds them to a lower testosterone limit and requires evidence that they don’t have physical advantages over cisgender athletes.

The NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports will meet to review the policy at the end of February, The New York Times reported.

Last month, the NCAA said it would follow whatever policy was set out by the national governing body of the sport, which in this case is USA Swimming. If a policy was absent, the NCAA would follow international rules set out by the International Swimming Federation and the International Olympic Committee.

USA Swimming released its new policy on Tuesday amid a controversial debate surrounding Lia Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania swimmer who is transgender and has posted fast times in female competition after her transition.

The sporting authority’s new policy “acknowledges a competitive difference in the male and female categories” and will be implemented by a panel of three independent medical experts. It applies to all swimmers aged 13 and up who swim under the USA Swimming umbrella.

The policy requires transgender athletes to provide evidence that after a transition, they don’t continue to hold a physical advantage over cisgender swimmers.

Thomas, who swam for three years on Pennsylvania’s men’s team before her transition, posted the fastest speed times of any female college swimmer last year, even after undergoing hormone therapy since 2019.

The second requirement is more controversial. It forces transgender athletes to keep testosterone levels down to five nanomoles per liter of blood, continuously for at least 36 months, to be eligible for competition, down from 10 nanomoles per liter for a 12 month period. It would be the longest requirement in any sports body.

Amid the controversy, some anonymous teammates of Thomas’s criticized her for having what they said was an unfair advantage over women. But a letter from several members of the University of Pennsylvania team on Tuesday expressed “full support” for Thomas and that they value her as a “person, teammate and friend,” ESPN reported.

The athlete told SwimSwam.com in December that she was feeling good about her transition.

“There just seems to be so much to do and things you have to take care of, and it just seems like this mountain,” she said. “But you get by it day by day, and build confidence each day, and I’m feeling confident and good in my swimming and all my personal relationships.”

Tags Lia Thomas NCAA NCAA sports testosterone transgender athletes Transgender policy University of Pennsylvania USA Swimming

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