NCAA’s New Transgender Athlete Guide Confuses Lia Thomas Debate

The NCAA’s new policy on transgender athletes lacks clarity and could be difficult to enforce, advocates on both sides of the issue say.

The NCAA has updated this policy after weeks of pressure from Critics say it’s not fair for Lia Thomas – a transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania who broke multiple records at a meeting last month – to compete on the women’s swim team. But while the NCAA appears to have “gave in,” as some advocates say, in the face of growing criticism, the new policy likely won’t affect Thomas’s ability to compete.

The NCAA’s board of governors voted in favor of a sport-by-sports approach to transgender participation “to preserve opportunities for transgender athletes while balancing equity, inclusion and safety for all competitors”, it stated Wednesday. It said the new policy, effective immediately, is in line with recent policy changes by the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee.

Previously, the National Association of Collegiate Athletes’ Association guidelines required transgender female athletes to undergo a year of testosterone suppression in order to compete on a women’s team in any sport. .

For example, transgender student-athletes who compete in swimming will now look to Swimming USA for eligibility criteria. USA Swimming has no online policy and has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The NCAA says that if a sport’s national governing body does not have a policy, athletes should review the sport’s international federation policy. For swimming, it would be FINA, the Fédération Internationale De Natation, based in Switzerland. It is not clear what FINA’s policy is, and the organization did not respond to a request for comment.

The NCAA will also require transgender female athletes to record their testosterone levels at the start of the season, six months after, and then four weeks before their athletic championship selection, though it’s unclear if this will how is done.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and president of Georgetown University, said the governing body was “unwavering in our support of transgender student-athletes and promoting equity in sports.” college sports.”

He said in a statement.

Chris Mosier, a transgender and bisexual advocate, criticized the policy on Twitter, and then again in an interview with ESPN.

“This update complicates NCAA policy in a way that I don’t believe they are equipped to handle,” he told ESPN, adding that many national regulators have failed to create their own policies. Transgender athletes’ policies and policies vary across national governing bodies for the sport, meaning “monitoring compliance would be a nightmare for the NCAA.”

He added, “This creates a lot of different standards for transgender athletes.”

Anne Lieberman, policy director for Athlete Ally, a group that advocates for LGBTQ sports policies, said it’s hard to say whether the policy is a step in the right or wrong way when it comes to inclusivity.

“I have more questions than answers,” says Lieberman. “What is not at all a step in the right direction is the fact that the NCAA has essentially let a lot of pressure on Lia Thomas sabotage the process specifically.”

The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment.

Lieberman, who uses sexist pronouns, says the first set of NCAAs tutorial, released in 2011, was developed in conjunction with a variety of parties, including transgender and non-binary athletes. They said the fact that policy had changed overnight without such a process was “very alarming”, especially in light of the national context surrounding the decision.

Over the past few years, dozens of states have considered bills that would ban transgender athletes from competing on their gendered sports teams, with 10 states – nine just last year – passing pass such bills into law.

Because of a record number of anti-transgender bills being considered in state legislatures, Thomas began his season at Penn. She declined an interview, but told Swimming podcast that she had been on testosterone suppression therapy for over two and a half years by the time she started playing for the women’s team in November.

Her participation sparked a nationwide debate after she broke multiple records at the Zippy Invitational last month. Her 200- and 500-yard freestyles are the nation’s best this season, according to Penn Athletics, according to Penn Athletics. In particular, in the 1,650 yard freestyle, she 38 seconds ago of teammate Anna Kalandadze, who finished second.

It’s unclear how the new policy will affect her participation. A spokesperson for Penn Athletics said they will work with the NCAA and continue to support Thomas.

“To support our student-athlete, Lia Thomas, we will be working with the NCAA on her participation on the newly adopted standards for the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.” Spokesperson said by email.

Some former athletes say that, while the policy isn’t clear, it’s a positive change. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic swimming champion and founder of Champion Women, a nonprofit group that provides legal advocacy for girls and women in sports, said The new book shows that the NCAA is “open to new changes based on established science,” but does not encourage that they say they prioritize equity, safety, and inclusion.

Hogshead-Makar, who wrote in an op-ed that “it’s not fair for Lia Thomas to compete” on Penn’s women’s team, she said the NCAA should prioritize fairness and safety before inclusion.

She said the NCAA is watching recently search this suggests that in certain sports there is a larger achievement gap between transgender men and trans women, which would not be fully mitigated by testosterone suppression. As a result, she said, policy should vary by sport, and transgender women should not be allowed to compete in certain sports or events. Instead, they can play in recreational teams.

“If you’re basically trying to assert your gender and identity, then you don’t have to win,” she told NBC News. “You don’t have to be in a class that celebrates women’s achievements. There are other ways to get involved in sports. “

She proposed that the NCAA allow Thomas to swim with her team, but that her number of times doesn’t count toward the record and her win doesn’t count either.

That stance is extreme for some. While some transgender women are likely to maintain an edge over transgender women even after transitioning, that’s not a reason to ban them from competing outright, says Joanna Harper, an athlete transgender and also a visiting fellow for transgender sports activism at UK’s Loughborough University, who published. First performance analysis of transgender athletes in 2015.

Harper is one of the main authors of a review published last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which suggests that transgender women retain a strength advantage over transgender women even after three years of hormone therapy, although she saves Note that the review looked at transgender women who have not reached their age.

“We allow for an advantage in sports,” she said, noting that left-handed baseball players have an advantage over right-handed baseball players. “But just saying that trans women have an advantage, while true, does not mean that trans women should not compete with trans women. Advantage is part of the reason why we have winners and losers in sports, right? ”

Harper said the NCAA’s new policy is a step in the right direction, because she believes it needs to account for testosterone levels somehow. However, she noted that a 2019 study found that 94% of transgender women had testosterone less than 2 nanomoles per liter, compared with 95% of transgender women. She’s sure that Thomas’s testosterone levels are about the same, but she’ll still swim fast.

“I predict she won’t win the NCAA championship,” Harper said. “But I bet she gets a medal or two, and does that make people unhappy? Yes.”

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Jake Nichol

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