The NCAA released more detailed information about its updated transgender eligibility requirements on Friday, including a process which requires schools to submit proof of athletes’ hormone suppression and accompanying laboratory results showing athletes’ testosterone level.
The new regulations, part of NCAA’s “Phase One” of updating requirements, only apply to transgender women, not to transgender men.
On January 19, the NCAA updated its transgender participation policy, voting in support of a sport-by-sport approach in line with U.S. and International Olympic Committee policy changes. The NCAA stated it will now follow the policy of the national governing body (NGB) of whatever sport a transgender athlete wants to participate in, or the IOC framework from November 2021 if no NGB policy is available.
Previously, the NCAA only required transgender women to complete one year of testosterone suppression prior to competing on a women’s team. Now, the NCAA has released more specific steps schools must take to compete in the 2022 winter and spring championships coming up in the next couple of months.
First, schools must fill out this reporting form for any transgender athlete looking to compete in the 2022 championships.
Second, the athlete’s medical professional must fill out this form confirming at least one year of hormone suppression.
Third, the school has to send in lab results confirming the athlete’s total “serum testosterone” level is within the allowable levels set by the relevant sport’s NGB. The lab tests cannot be taken more than 28 days before the first date of the championship the athlete wants to compete at.
Practically, these steps don’t change much for swimmers because there are no testosterone requirements for the sport, since USA Swimming, FINA, and the IOC have yet to set testosterone requirements. Prior to a November 2021 shift in framework, however, the IOC did require transgender women to keep their testosterone levels below 10 nmol per litre for at least 12 months to be eligible for competition. Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical director, said that those requirements were no longer appropriate.
Additionally, USA Swimming released a statement saying it was working with FINA to come up with a new policy.
This new guidance comes in the wake of renewed debate in the participation of transgender athletes in sports, particularly the participation of transgender women. In swimming, Penn athlete Lia Thomas has generated international headlines in her first year competing on the women’s team. Thomas has broke multiple records this season, and has top times nationwide in the 200 free and 500 free, as well as a top-10 time in the 1650 free.
In addition, the recent policy changes, which have shifted the burden on defining the elements of transgender participation from the NCAA to sports’ NGBs, have not gone uncriticized.
The CSCAA called the recent policy changes a “missed opportunity to lead.” Seth Huston, Rice’s head swim coach, became the first active Division I coach to speak out on the topic, also criticizing the NCAA for lack of action.
At least for now, though, the policy seems here to stay, and has with it a multi-year implementation program. To help alleviate confusion, the NCAA has made a webpage dedicated to helping member schools and their athletes navigate the new requirements, which can be found here.