NCAA ruled Thomas eligible to compete, unaffected by new USA Swimming guidelines

USA Swimming recently announced a new policy that raised questions about Lia Thomas' eligibility to compete in next month's championship meet.

The NCAA recently ruled that the new policy would not be adopted for the winter meet, giving Thomas the green light to qualify for the women's division.

Transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, formerly Will Thomas, will indeed be eligible to compete at the NCAA championship meet. The NCAA announced the update on Thursday, following a recommendation issued by the Committee Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.

The ruling settled speculation about Thomas’ eligibility after USA swimming updated its transgender policy on Feb. 1. Abiding by the NCAA’s “sport-by-sport” directive, the Athlete Inclusion, Competitive Equity and Eligibility Policy outlined new standards that biological men must meet before competing alongside women.

”The subcommittee decided implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championships,” the NCAA stated.

The USA Swimming policy will not be adopted for the upcoming meet, ESPN reported. Rather, athletes previously eligible under the 2010 bylaws will be grandfathered in and protected from immediate change. 

Under the new policy, biological men must provide evidence that prior “physical development” as a man does not give a competitive advantage over female competitors and record testosterone levels below 5nmol/L for a minimum of 36 months before competing.

Eligibility will be ruled by a panel of three medical experts.

The policy reads, “At the elite level, a policy has been created for transgender athlete participation in the U.S. that relies on science and medical evidence-based methods to provide a level-playing field for elite cisgender women, and to mitigate the advantages associated with male puberty and physiology.”

[RELATED: NCAA officer resigns amid transgender policy controversy as reports of Lia Thomas’ ‘entitlement’ surface]

According to USA Swimming, an ‘elite athlete’ is considered to be “any athlete who has achieved a time standard and desires to participate in elite events as defined in the policy

[RELATED: ‘Everything is messed up’: Lia Thomas takes first place at meet. Parents, students struggle to speak out over transgender athletes.]

Speculation about Thomas’ eligibility rose soon after the policy was announced. 

The new policy requires 36 months of low testosterone levels, but Thomas only started her transition back in May 2019, according to The Daily Wire

36 months would require Thomas to produce low testosterone up until May of 2022. However, the championship meet starts on March 16.

Collegiate swimming quickly became the center of the debate around men participating in women’s sports. Regardless of the policy changes, some argue that not enough is being done to ensure a fair playing field for women.

Harvard University powerlifter Amy Nicols told Campus Reform she believes the new policy does not do enough to save women’s sports.

“Even with the argument that testosterone is suppressed with hormone replacement therapy, muscle memory still exists, higher bone density exists, and the suppressed level of testosterone is sometimes still higher than the average biological woman,” Nichols told Campus Reform.

She added, “Organs are also larger in biological males.”

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Pennsylvania and multiple medical experts for comment; this article will be updated accordingly. 

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