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NCAA Changes Transgender Athlete Policy

After swimmer Lia Thomas drew attention to the policy and standards, the NCAA has issued official changes to its transgender policies

The NCAA announced it has changed its policy regarding transgender athletes.

Sports Illustrated reported on Wednesday that the new approach to allowing transgender athletes will follow a sport-by-sport model similarly adopted by the US and international Olympic committees.

“We are steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports,” said John DeGioia, Georgetown University’s president and the NCAA board chairman.

The new transgender athlete policy takes effect immediately.

According to the report, the Board of Governors voted to pass the new policy as it “preserves the opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion, and safety for all who compete.”

DeGioia said further, “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.”

Each sport’s national governing body will determine transgender athlete participation. Sports Illustrated reported that if a sport does not have a national governing body, the international federation policy will be enacted. 

In a statement, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the new policy brings collegiate sports closer to Olympic standards.

“Approximately 80% of US Olympians are either current or former college athletes,” Emmert said. “This policy alignment provides consistency and further strengthens the relationship between college sports and the US Olympics.”

The NCAA’s transgender athlete rules came into question at the emergence of University of Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas. Thomas has spent the last year breaking Ivy League records. She is closing in on setting new national records as well. 

Thomas was on the school’s men’s team for her first three years. She started on the Quakers’ women’s team this season after transitioning from male to female.

This year’s success by Thomas has ignited criticism over allowing transgender women to compete against biological females. 

The changes to the NCAA policy mean USA Swimming policies will govern swimming athletes. The US Swimming policy follows the guidelines of the International Olympic Committee. 

The IOC’s rules state: “Trans female athletes must demonstrate a total testosterone level in serum below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 consecutive months prior to competition and must remain below this threshold throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category in any event.”

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