USA Swimming Publishes Athlete Transgender Policy

USA Swimming released its new Athlete Inclusion, Competitive Equity and Eligibility Policy (AICEEP) on Tuesday, which will come into effect immediately.

The policy was sent out to National and Junior National Team coaches on Tuesday, and has also been published in USA Swimming’s Operating Policy on its website. The organization issued a press release on the matter shortly thereafter.

The need for an updated policy has come to light amidst the ongoing transgender discussion in the sport, sparked by the performances of Lia Thomas, a trans woman, who competes for the University of Pennsylvania in the NCAA.

The policy has identified specific guidelines for both non-elite and elite athletes, with the elite section  “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.”

The elite athlete policy will be implemented by a decision-making panel comprised of three independent medical experts. The eligibility criteria consists of the following (directly from USA Swimming):

  • Evidence that the prior physical development of the athlete as a male, as mitigated by any medical intervention, does not give the athlete a competitive advantage over the athlete’s cisgender female competitors.
  • Evidence that the concentration of testosterone in the athlete’s serum has been less than 5 nmol/L (as measured by liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry) continuously for a period of at least thirty-six (36) months before the date of application.

The previous International Olympic Committee (IOC) policy was 10 nmol/L, double the standard USA Swimming is implementing.

The release specifically outlines the competitive difference in the male and female categories of swimming, showing that the top-ranked female in 2021, on average, would rank 536th across all men’s events in short course yards swimming and 326th across all men’s event in long course meters in the country (among USA Swimming members).

Whereas before it was more black and white, the onus of proving there’s no competitive advantage has now been pushed onto the transgender athlete.

USA Swimming notes that an elite athlete includes anyone who has achieved a Junior National time standard and desires to participate in any of the following ‘Elite Events’: U.S. Olympic Trials, International Team Trials, Pan Pacific Championships, USA Swimming Nationals, World University Games, Junior Nationals, U.S. Open, and/or any other competition designated by USA Swimming as an “elite event.”

The organization adds that athletes will need to abide by the policy in order to be eligible to set USA Swimming National Age-Group Records in the 13-14 category and above, along with American Records.

The non-elite policy features an inclusive process “by which an athlete can elect to change their competition category in order for them to experience the sport of swimming in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity and expression.”

The new policy from USA Swimming comes after the NCAA Board of Governors passed the buck on implementing a transgender policy to each specific sport’s national governing body on January 19.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, its policy had been that transgender female athletes could compete in the women’s division provided they’d been undergoing hormone suppression for a minimum of one year.

The governing body for college sports updated some of its new requirements last week, including a process that requires schools to submit proof of athletes’ hormone suppression and accompanying laboratory results showing athletes’ testosterone levels.

Thomas, who has been undergoing testosterone suppression for two and a half years, currently leads the NCAA rankings in the women’s 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle.

It’s important to note that USA Swimming clearly states the policy is not applicable to non-USA Swimming athlete members. According to CEO Tim Hinchey, Thomas is not a member of USA Swimming.

The full policy can be found in Section 19.0 of its Operating Policies on the USA Swimming website here.

FULL USA SWIMMING RELEASE

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Following several months of internal work, critical stakeholder discussions, and medical and legal review, and in light of updated information regarding the Fédération Internationale de Natation’s (FINA) policy development, USA Swimming has elected to release its Athlete Inclusion, Competitive Equity and Eligibility Policy. This policy, effective immediately, is applicable only to USA Swimming athlete members and approved elite events as defined in the policy and will remain in place until the release of an elite policy by FINA.

USA Swimming has and will continue to champion gender equity and the inclusivity of all cisgender and transgender women and their rights to participate in sport, while also fervently supporting competitive equity at elite levels of competition.

The development of the elite policy therefore acknowledges a competitive difference in the male and female categories and the disadvantages this presents in elite head-to-head competition. This is supported by statistical data that shows that the top-ranked female in 2021, on average, would be ranked 536th across all short course yards (25 yards) male events in the country and 326th across all long course meters (50 meters) male events in the country, among USA Swimming members. The policy therefore supports the need for competitive equity at the most elite levels of competition.

While recognizing the need for the aforementioned guidelines in elite competition, sport is an important vehicle for positive physical and mental health, and, for this reason, USA Swimming remains steadfast in its continued commitment to greater inclusivity at the non-elite levels.

In order to balance these two priorities, specific guidelines have been developed for both non-elite and elite athletes and elite events. At the non-elite level, an inclusive process has been established by which an athlete can elect to change their competition category in order for them to experience the sport of swimming in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity and expression. 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. Elite athletes shall include any athlete who has achieved a time standard and desires to participate in elite events as defined in the policy.

The elite athlete policy will be implemented by a decision-making panel comprised of three independent medical experts and eligibility criteria will consist of:

  • Evidence that the prior physical development of the athlete as a male, as mitigated by any medical intervention, does not give the athlete a competitive advantage over the athlete’s cisgender female competitors.
  • Evidence that the concentration of testosterone in the athlete’s serum has been less than 5 nmol/L (as measured by liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry) continuously for a period of at least thirty-six (36) months before the date of application.

Athletes will need to abide by USA Swimming’s Athlete Inclusion, Competitive Equity and Eligibility Policy to be eligible to set USA Swimming National Age-Group Records in the 13-14 age group and above or to be eligible to set an American Record, per the USA Swimming Rules & Regulations, in a competition category which is different than the gender assigned to the athlete at birth.

USA Swimming’s policy is not applicable to non-USA Swimming athlete members nor non-approved Elite events, as defined in the policy.

USA Swimming will continue to learn and to evaluate its policy, with a focus on balancing inclusion and equity, and will continue to work closely with FINA on global standards.

The complete policy, for both elite and non-elite athletes, which is part of the USA Swimming Operating Policy Manual, is available online at https://www.usaswimming.org/inclusion.

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Swammer
10 months ago

Lia had been in compliance for nearly three years with the rules NCAA put in place over a decade ago. Shame on NCAA and USA swimming and their outdated, reactionary leadership for failing on their promise of inclusivity by firstly implementing rules for over a decade and then cracking under mob pressure in their attempt to target and rob an athlete of their last collegiate season. Both organizations are complicit in lazy, incompetent approach to leadership and inclusion.

Moreover, this immediate policy affects all other trans athletes who have been contemplating or had already began a transition process. Effective immediately, it makes them ineligible to compete unless they can satisfy both conditions, which demand a 36-month period window of compliance.… Read more »

john
10 months ago

the fact that transgender male swimmers have no this type of problem gives us enough evidence. time to end it.

Last edited 10 months ago by john
jim davis
10 months ago

Lia’s a true hero and hopefully will win a couple national titles this yr.

This policy doesn’t apply to Lia, luckily.

Taa
Reply to  jim davis
10 months ago

It needs to end up in court however this looks to be a policy that was crafted and rushed out there as knee jerk reaction to the recent massive outcry against Lia. It needs to be refined and updated over a period of time, they don’t have procedures, regulations or anything in place really to deal with this yet. My guess would be that they can’t push this down and enforce it this season.

Bobo Gigi
Reply to  jim davis
10 months ago

Yes. Let’s kill women’s sports. Very good idea. 🙄

Chlorinetherapy
10 months ago

So a male to female swimmer can triumph at the non-elite level but at the elite level that stops? Let’s hope our young females have the tenacity and resilience to stick it out until they reach the elite level where they can finally participate in fair competition

Andy Esquire
10 months ago

Putting the burden fully on the trans swimmer is problematic. There should be guidelines for what the swimmer would need to show/establish. My first impression is that no m to f trans swimmer could meet the burden of proof if they had ever swum at an “elite” level as a male.

Taa
Reply to  Andy Esquire
10 months ago

That would be trouble in front a judge. They are going to expect something more from USA swimming since they are the overlords of the sport and to push the burden onto a young broke college student is not going to fly. Hopefully they clean that up its only a start I’m sure they rushed this thing out there in last few weeks.

Swimfan
10 months ago

Horrible policy. If you go through puberty as a man you have advantages. It doesn’t matter how big/small they are. Too much Grey area. Is the same committee going to rule on all cases? To much room for interpretation and personal beliefs. The policy needs to be black and white.

SwammaJammaDingDong
Reply to  Swimfan
10 months ago

Going through puberty is only part of the difference. The average height difference of five inches between genetic males and females is significant in this sport.

Troyy
10 months ago

So I guess this is a sneak peek into what the FINA policy will be given they said they’ve been working with FINA on a new policy?

Dennis
10 months ago

What is the demarcation between elite and nonelite?

Andy
Reply to  Dennis
10 months ago

Quoted from the article above:
USA Swimming notes that an elite athlete includes anyone who has achieved a Junior National time standard and desires to participate in any of the following ‘Elite Events’: U.S. Olympic Trials, International Team Trials, Pan Pacific Championships, USA Swimming Nationals, World University Games, Junior Nationals, U.S. Open, and/or any other competition designated by USA Swimming as an “elite event.”

Clown Alert
Reply to  Dennis
10 months ago

Maybe try reading the article. They outline it in the first half.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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