NCAA Overhauls Rules for Transgender Athletes After University of Pennsylvania Swimmer Dominates

New rules are governing transgender athletes in the NCAA. The association has announced brand new policies that will change the way transgender athletes compete in college sports.

These changes come on the heels of dominating performances by a Division 1 women’s swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania. Lia Thomas, formerly known as Will Thomas, is a transgender swimmer who has caused intense criticism and claims of unfairness from those who have competed against her. She has dominated her division for the University of Pennsylvania.

The NCAA has now put out a statement that indicates it is choosing a “sport-by-sport approach” to rules governing the competition of transgender athletes. The body that makes the rules for collegiate sports said the changes will be enforced immediately. The new standards will now be set by the national governing body of each sport or by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The statement from the NCAA says that the new plan will align transgender student-athlete inclusion in college sports with the most recent policy changes that came from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and International Olympic Committee.

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

The change in the IOC guidelines for the inclusion of transgender athletes in sports came last November. They announced many new rules and objectives for sport-specific bodies to apply to the standards they have for transgender athletes.

These new guidelines took the play of rules that had been in place since 2015. Those rules stated that the testosterone levels of transgender women must measure below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least one year before competing. The rationale for the new guidelines came because the IOC believed that the 2015 plan to be outdated.

Lia Thomas competed in men’s Division 1 swimming as Will Thomas before transitioning and, then, applying to compete as a female in the summer of 2020. Thomas began to dominate in the university’s women’s swimming competition. She now holds the top records for the 2021-2022 season in six events.

It was reported that “In early December, Thomas utterly crushed the women competing with Thomas at the University of Akron’s Zippy Invitational, winning the 1650 free by a gargantuan 38 seconds ahead of the young woman finishing second, winning the 500 free by a whopping twelve seconds ahead of the woman finishing second, and winning the 200 free by a still-huge seven seconds, setting new Penn records along with meet and pool records.”

Thomas did lose one race on January 8th, but there is some controversy around that loss. She lost to another transgender athlete, a swimmer from Yale named Iszac Henig who was formerly known as Izzi Henig. Henig is biologically female but identifies as male. He has undergone a mastectomy but did not take hormones so that he could still compete on the women’s swim team. When Thomas competed with Henig, she swam several seconds above her previous time.

One of Thomas’ teammates has alleged that Thomas and Henig intentionally threw the race. They said that it was blatantly obvious that Thomas was just keeping pace with the other swimmers and she was just not trying.

Now that the rules in the NCAA will be changing sport by sport, there is a whole new level of confusion surrounding this issue.