NCAA updates trans athlete policy after Lia Thomas swept up women’s swimming titles

Laurel Duggan, DCNF

The NCAA changed its policy on transgender athlete participation Wednesday as concern mounted over swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male, identifying as a woman and immediately dominating the sport.

Transgender athletes will need to show testosterone levels within their sport’s approved range four weeks before championship selections, according to the new rules. They will need to document their testosterone levels at the beginning of the season as well as four weeks before championship selections in the coming academic year.

The new policy “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete,” according to an NCAA press release.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also allows each sport’s governing body to determine transgender participation policy, but it recommends that sports organizations allow biologically male, transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports without lowering their testosterone levels.

The NCAA’s Board of Governors urged the divisions to be flexible with eligibility for athletes who suddenly become ineligible under the new policy.

“We are steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports,” said John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president. “It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy.”

Lia Thomas, who competed on the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s swim team for three years before identifying as transgender and dominating women’s swimming at the national level, sparked renewed debate about transgender athletes in women’s sports.

Parents of swimmers, former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and Caitlyn Jenner have all voiced their concern about the threat transgender athletes pose to fairness in women’s sports.

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