The NCAA has adopted a sport-by-sport approach for transgender athletes, bringing the organization in line with the U.S. and International Olympic Committees.
Under the new guidelines, approved by the NCAA Board of Governors on Wednesday, transgender participation for each sport will be determined by the policy for the sport's national governing body, subject to review and recommendation by an NCAA committee to the Board of Governors.
When there is no national governing body, that sport’s international federation policy would be in place. If there is no international federation policy, previously established IOC policy criteria would take over.
“Approximately 80% of U.S. Olympians are either current or former college athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a release. “This policy alignment provides consistency and further strengthens the relationship between college sports and the U.S. Olympics.”
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The NCAA policy is effective immediately, beginning with the 2022 winter championships.
NCAA rules on transgender athletes returned to the forefront when Penn swimmer Lia Thomas started smashing records this year. She was on the men’s team her first three years, but she is competing for the women this season after transitioning.
"In support of our student-athlete, Lia Thomas, we will work with the NCAA regarding her participation under the newly adopted standards for the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship," a spokesperson for Penn Athletics wrote in a statement.
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The Board of Governors is suggesting NCAA divisions allow for additional eligibility if a transgender student-athlete loses eligibility based on the policy change. That flexibility is provided they meet the NCAA's new guidelines.
“We are steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports,” Georgetown President John DeGioia said in a release. “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.”
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