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NCAA Says No to USA Swimming Guidelines For Transgender Participation; Door Open For Lia Thomas

CAA Won’t Adopt USA Swimming Guidelines For Transgender Participation; Door Open For Lia Thomas

The NCAA announced on Thursday that there will be no changes to its previously approved testosterone policy for transgender women to compete at the 2022 Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, giving Penn transgender swimmer Lia Thomas the possibility of competing.

The previously approved NCAA testosterone threshold is 10 nmol/L, and it is unknown whether Thomas is eligible based on that number. If she is, she will be able to compete at the NCAA Championships. The CSMAS (the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports) reviewed the policy, along with the new USA Swimming policy (5 nmol/L) before making the decision.

“The subcommittee decided implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championships,” the NCAA wrote in a press release.

This decision could also keep the NCAA from dealing with backlash, including litigation, based on rules changing during the middle of an academic school year.

At its Jan. 19 meeting, the NCAA Board of Governors approved updates to the NCAA transgender student-athlete participation policy, which aligns participation with the Olympic movement. The Phase One eligibility requirements and related documentation submission timelines (PDF) communicated from that decision, including for the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships and other winter championship events, will remain in effect.

USA Swimming’s policy was released after the start of the four-week window in which schools could submit required eligibility documentation (e.g., testosterone lab results).

According to USA Swimming’s new rule, no transgender athlete would be allowed to compete in the women’s category prior to showing that her concentration of testosterone in serum has been less than 5 nmol/L for a continuous period of 36 months. Further, transgender athletes hoping to compete in women’s events would also have to provide “evidence that the prior physical development of the athlete as a male, as mitigated by any medical intervention, does not give the athlete a competitive advantage over the athlete’s cisgender female competitors.” Final determination of eligibility would be made by a panel.

The NCAA decided not to adopt that policy for this school year, but will continue discussions in the future based on the USA Swimming policy.

According to the NCAA release, USA Swimming’s new policy will be part of the subcommittee’s future analysis when recommending additional updates to eligibility requirements for Phase Two (2022-23 academic year) and Phase Three (2023-24 academic year).

Visit ncaa.org/transgender for more on the NCAA’s transgender student-athlete participation policy, including an updated list (PDF) of testosterone thresholds that clarifies divisional differences in submission deadlines.

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