Lia Thomas’ emergence in the pool put the NCAA’s transgender policy in the spotlight
Lia Thomas swims for Penn. (Penn Athletics)
Olympic gold medalist and Title IX advocator Donna de Varona discusses the NCAA board debating their transgender policy.
The NCAA changed its policy regarding transgender athletes, it announced Wednesday.
“We are steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports,” John DeGioia, Georgetown University’s president and the NCAA board’s chairman, said in a statement Wednesday, announcing the change.
The new policy is effective immediately.
The NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis on March 12, 2020. (Associated Press)
The Board of Governors voted to pass the new policy as it “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete,” according to the report.
“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,” DeGioia added.
Each particular sport’s national governing body will be responsible for determining transgender athlete participation. If a sport does not have a national governing body, the international federation policy will be enacted, Sports Illustrated reported.
NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement saying the new policy brings collegiate sports closer to Olympic standards.
“Approximately 80% of U.S. 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 U.S. Olympics.”
The NCAA’s rules came into the national spotlight due to the emergence of Penn’s Lia Thomas. She started breaking Ivy League records with national records in the crosshairs. She was on the men’s team for her first three years but started on the Quakers’ women’s team this season after transitioning.
Her success this year ignited criticism over allowing transgender women to compete against biological females. Women’s sports advocates and parents at Penn have recently spoken out against the NCAA and its rules on transgender student-athlete participation.
Thomas finished about two seconds ahead of her opponents with a time of 1:48.73 in the 200 freestyle. She missed out on setting an NCAA record held by Olympian Missy Franklin, who finished the event in 1:39.10 in 2015. Thomas wasn’t as dominant as she was at the Zippy Invitational at Akron last month.
She faced a real challenge in the 100 freestyle from Yale’s Iszac Henig, who is transitioning from female to male. Henig had a time of 49.57 seconds with Thomas finishing behind him with a time of 52.84 seconds.
Henig, who is from California and has been competing for Yale since 2018, stunned the limited spectators at the race.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.