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20 Jan, 2022 15:04

US college officials announce new trans athlete policy

Requirements for trans athletes are set to be determined by each sport's individual national governing body in line with the IOC
US college officials announce new trans athlete policy

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has announced a new policy that will see the participation and requirements for transgender athletes determined by each individual sport's national US governing body.

The changes will be brought in with immediate effect, replacing uniform regulations across all college sports on hormone therapy requirements, and come in an era when the likes of record-breaking University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas have stoked debate on the fairness of trans athletes competing in the events of their new sex.

Since 2020, 10 states have enforced laws restricting the participation of trans athletes in school sports which have a knock-on effect on college-level participation.

As part of the new policy, Thomas, who boasts the US' top 200-yard and 500-yard women's freestyle times, will need to comply with criteria set by USA Swimming to take part in the March NCAA Championships. 

"We are steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports," commented John DeGioia, who is the NCAA Board of Governors' chair.

"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," he added.

NCAA president Mark Emmert claimed that the policy alignment "provides consistency and further strengthens the relationship between college sports and the US Olympics". 

It is an attempt to bring his organization in line with the International Olympic Committee's fresh approach on the matter, which though suggesting transgender women should no longer need to reduce their levels of testosterone to compete in female categories will leave the burden on governing bodies across individual sports to determine their own rules like the NCAA.

"Approximately 80% of US Olympians are either current or former college athletes," Emmert also noted.

As of the 2022 winter championships, trans athletes wishing to take part need to document testosterone levels four weeks before their sport's selection of participants and in compliance with its governing body.

In the event that it does not already have a policy in place, the international federation's policy must be referred to and the IOC's policy if the international federation doesn't have one either.

Moving forward during the upcoming 2022-2023 season, athletes will need to provide their testosterone level documentation at three different set points of the campaign including one four weeks before selection. 

But already there has been backlash to the announcement, with duathlete and transgender inclusion advocate Chris Mosier saying the update "complicates the NCAA policy in a way that I don't believe they are equipped to handle."

"Given that many NGBs (national governing bodies) have not created policies for transgender athletes and that policies vary from sport NGB to NGB, tracking compliance is going to be a nightmare for the NCAA. This creates many different standards for trans athletes," Mosier went on.

For ex-Olympic swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who is a member of the Women's Sports Policy Working Group, the new policy merely "sounds a lot like the old one".

"The board hasn't resolved the intractable balancing between fairness, playing safety, and inclusion. They failed women by not prioritizing fairness," she stressed.