Lia Thomas Saga Update: USA Swimming Publishes Transgender Athlete Policy
You know the Lia Thomas story. Biological male, a Penn swimmer, transitioned and was cleared by the NCAA to compete on the women’s team. She broke some records, and that caused a big stir among teammates and others who think the situation has created an unfair playing field.
The latest update on this saga came two weeks ago, when the NCAA basically said “fuck it, this is not our problem anymore.” They updated their policy on transgender athletes so that all guidelines for participation would now be based on the criteria set forth by each individual sports’ national governing body. So Lia Thomas’s eligibility is shifted to USA Swimming.
The catch is that USA swimming didn’t even have a policy. The organization followed the International Olympic Committee medical criteria, which stated that:
“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.”
Fast forward to this week, and USA Swimming updated their guidelines to say this:
The elite athlete policy will be implemented by a decision-making panel comprised of three independent medical experts and eligibility criteria will consist of:
– 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.
– Evidence that the concentration of testosterone in the athlete’s serum has been less than 5 nmol/L (as measured by liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry) continuously for a period of at least thirty-six (36) months before the date of application.
So that’s 5 nmol/L vs. the previous number of 10 nmol/L. The old NCAA rules said you needed to do a year of testosterone suppression treatment, but in the release above, it’s noted that the testosterone concentration period is 36 months.
Notice in the language how it says “elite athlete?” Thomas isn’t considered to be in that category, so that’s the catch here. She’s not a pro. This is the language in the press release relevant to her:
At the non-elite level, an inclusive process has been established by which an athlete can elect to change their competition category in order for them to experience the sport of swimming in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity and expression.
Thomas would only be affected by the new criteria if the NCAA goes ahead and adopts the new USA Swimming guidelines, which I guess they would be doing, since they decided to punt responsibility to the national governing bodies in the first place.
This is where we’re at. The NCAA shifted responsibility to the individual sports, USA Swimming released a new policy, and now we’re waiting to see how that affects Thomas.