On the same day 300 swimmers signed an open letter supporting Thomas, the NCAA announced it wouldn’t adopt the USA Swimming policy.
After the NCAA declared that it would not adopt USA Swimming’s stricter policy regarding transgender athletes, Lia Thomas, University of Pennsylvania swimmer will be likely to be eligible to compete at both the Ivy League championships and the NCAA championships.
The NCAA Board of Governors voted Thursday to follow the advice of the NCAA’s subcommittee for competitive safeguards in sports medicine. It affirmed its approval of a policy last month that allows trans athletes to participate in the championships of swimming and diving.
Phase 1 of the policy states that trans female athletes must have testosterone levels less than 10 nanomoles/liter blood. This threshold was previously used by International Olympic Committee. They also need to submit documentation four weeks prior to championship selections or by February 21.
Thomas will be eligible to compete in the NCAA championships in March, having won three events in December . This set off a media firestorm.
However, a spokesperson from Penn Athletics could not confirm her eligibility.
“Penn Athletics has been updated by the NCAA regarding Lia Thomas’ eligibility for the 2022 Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships.” The spokesperson stated in an email.
The NCAA’s decision is the latest in a series policy changes that were initiated by the decision last Month to abandon its 2011 guidance for transgender women athletes. This guideline required testosterone suppression treatment for one year and did not include a limit on testosterone levels.
Jan. 19 saw the policy go into effect. However, will be implemented in three phases. It follows a sport-by–sport approach similar to that of International Olympic Committee. NCAA athletes will be looking to the transgender policy for their sport’s international or national governing body. FINA and USA Swimming are the two for swimming.
The NCAA used the International Olympic Committee’s 2015 trans-athlete policy to develop deadlines and testosterone thresholds in 2022. This policy uses a testosterone threshold that is 10 nanomoles per Liter of blood.
Mount Sinai Health System has determined that normal testosterone serum test results for cisgender males, who identify with their assigned sexual partner at birth, are between 10 and 35 nanomoles/liter. Mount Sinai says that testosterone levels drop dramatically when a male assigned at birth is subject to testosterone suppression treatment. This usually results in a decrease of less than 2 nanomoles per Liter, which is within the range for cisgender females.
USA Swimming has released a new policy last week for transgender athletes. For athletes participating in elite events, and for those under 13 years old who wish to set national records, they must have documented testosterone levels below 5 nanomoles/liter blood over the course of 36 months. They must also show that their puberty experience as their sex at birth doesn’t give them a competitive advantage over their “cisgender” female counterparts.
Three independent medical experts will review applicants and implement the policy.
The new USA Swimming policy doesn’t automatically apply to NCAA and Ivy League events. These events are not on the list of elite competitions. A spokesperson for the NCAA stated that athletes would not be required to provide documentation about their testosterone levels over the period until the implementation of phase 3 of the policy in the 2023-24 season. They will only submit the documentation once in the interim, four weeks before championship selections.
The NCAA stated Thursday, after reviewing USA Swimming’s new testosterone threshold. It also said that it had determined that additional policy changes would have “unfair and potentially harmful impacts on schools or student athletes” who are preparing to compete in the 2022 women’s swimming championships.
The policy of USA Swimming was released shortly after the beginning of the four-week window before championship selections. During which athletes will be required to submit their testosterone lab results, it said. The subcommittee would take USA Swimming’s policy into consideration when it recommends future updates to eligibility requirements for the next two academic year.
This latest update was released by the NCAA on the same day that more then 300 members of swimming community signed an Open Letter to the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports supporting Thomas. Athlete Ally, a LGBTQ sports advocacy group, organized the letter. Schuyler Bailar was the first transgender athlete to compete on any NCAA Division I men’s team.
The letter states that swimming is a lifelong passion for its invaluable lessons in discipline, hard work and teamwork. No one should be denied the chance to see their life transformed by swimming.
Thomas has been supported and challenged by her teammates. several of them issued a statement supporting Thomas early last week and then 16 of their teammates joined an open letter applauding USA Swimming’s new policy regarding transgender athletes.
In an email, a spokesperson for USA Swimming stated that Thomas will be eligible for the championships. They will be held next week at Harvard.