Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas sits out University of Pennsylvania’s final meet of season with Ivy League Championships on horizon

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Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas sits out University of Pennsylvania's final meet of season with Ivy League Championships on horizon

The University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas was not in the pool for the Quakers on Friday night as the Ivy League team defeated West Chester University (Pa.) in their final meet of the regular season.

Thomas, a transgender swimmer who has been in the national spotlight after winning races at a blazing pace, was held out in preparation of the Ivy League Championships set for February.

“Friday had long been a planned rest day for Lia and a number of our other top swimmers as they prepare for championship meets next month,” a UPenn Athletics spokesman told the Washington Times.

Without Thomas in the lineup, UPenn was still able to finish off the season with a victory. Four Penn swimmers won events.

Thomas’ eligibility as she and UPenn prepare for the NCAA Championships has come into question after the organization updated its transgender participation policy putting the onus on the sport’s federation to come up with guidelines.

The updated policy for the NCAA says that, by March, “Transgender student-athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections.

Starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender student-athletes will need documented levels at the beginning of their season and a second documentation six months after the first. They will also need documented testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections. Full implementation would begin with the 2023-24 academic year.”

Lia Thomas’ eligibility for the University of Pennsylvania in the NCAA Championships has come into question after the organization updated its transgender participation policy.
Lia Thomas’ eligibility for the University of Pennsylvania in the NCAA Championships has come into question after the organization updated its transgender participation policy.
AFP via Getty Images

USA Swimming uses an eligibility review panel to make a decision on transgender athletes’ eligibility. Elite swimmers would be up to FINA and International Olympic Committee (IOC) policies.

USA Swimming released a statement on the issue last week.

“USA Swimming firmly believes in inclusivity and the opportunity for all athletes to experience the sport of swimming in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity and expression. We also strongly believe in competitive equity, and, like many, are doing our best to learn and educate ourselves on the appropriate balance in this space,” the organization said. 

“In 2018, we established athlete inclusion procedures, which included both a process by which an athlete could change their competition category consistent with their gender identity and criteria for athletes qualifying for or competing in elite-level competitions (including those competition time qualifications such as Juniors, Nationals and U.S. Open), which adhered to previous International Olympic Committee guidelines. This policy also importantly provides for individual athlete consideration.

The University of Pennsylvania claimed that Lia Thomas had been listed to rest on the day of Friday's meet along with another top swimmer, as the team prepares for championship meets.
The University of Pennsylvania claimed that Lia Thomas had been listed to rest on the day of Friday’s meet along with another top swimmer, as the team prepares for championship meets.
Getty Images

“The non-elite athlete inclusion procedures remain unchanged. Following broad transgender policy changes in Nov. 2021, the IOC now requires International Federations to create their own sport-specific eligibility requirements, and so we have been proactively working with FINA for several months to help shape and support their policy development efforts. We believe they will release a new policy shortly, which we will adopt for elite-level competitions.

 “USA Swimming is a member-driven organization governed by a 15-member Board of Directors, which oversees more than 360,000 members–including coaches, volunteers and over 325,000 athletes from age-group level to the Olympic Team. These individuals and 2,800 member clubs participate through a network of 59 Local Swimming Committees (LSCs) in four geographic Zones across the U.S. With the NCAA now deferring to USA Swimming for eligibility determinations, we welcome and look forward to American NCAA athletes and coaches joining our membership in order to be eligible to be governed by our policy and its provisions and benefits.”  

The updated policy for the NCAA says that, by March, transgender student-athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport's championship selections.
The updated policy for the NCAA says that, by March, transgender student-athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections.
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

The IOC updated its transgender participation policy in November 2021, refraining from the focus on testosterone levels to determine eligibility, according to The Washington Post. The IOC urged the governing bodies of each individual sport to create the rules while offering assistance.

The Ivy League Championships are set for Feb. 16-19 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The NCAA said the policy would start with the winter championships. The NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships are set for March 16-19 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta.

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