USA Swimming Releases Statement on Transgender Athlete Inclusion

On Thursday, USA Swimming issued a statement in support of transgender athlete inclusion, but without committing to a specific threshold for participation in elite swimming competition.

In the statement, USA Swimming expressed that for several months they have been working closely with FINA to create the sport-specific eligibility requirement that the IOC now requires. USA Swimming believes that FINA will release this new policy shortly, and USA Swimming will adopt the measures accordingly.  

USA Swimming reiterated its policy of allowing non-elite athletes to compete with whichever gender matches their gender identity and expression. While they have not defined elite sport versus non-elite sport, Lia Thomas’ times would likely classify her as as an elite athlete both before and after her transition.

Yesterday, the NCAA Board voted to support a sport-by-sport approach to transgender athlete inclusion, which focuses on safety and fairness for all athletes. As part of this policy, the NCAA has said that testosterone thresholds will be left to national governing bodies, like USA Swimming and FINA, to decide. That decision by the Board of Governors made USA Swimming and FINA, perhaps unwittingly, the latest to hold the hot potato in deciding specific policies with regards to transgender athlete participation in intercollegiate athletics.

In the case where the governing bodies have not established a specific threshold, which is true as of now in swimming, the November 2021 IOC policy becomes the default. The November 2021 IOC policy, however, eliminated testosterone thresholds and instead laid out a framework for transgender inclusion in sport, pushing the onus of creating specific regulations onto sport governing bodies.

This has created a loop between the NCAA, the IOC, and sport governing bodies, where in swimming, none have made a policy, but all have acknowledged the need for such a policy.

The conversation surrounding athlete inclusion has been brought to the forefront recently with University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas receiving international media attention for her record-breaking swims this season. Thomas previously swam for the Quaker’s men’s team for three years. After undergoing almost three years of hormone replacement therapy, Thomas now competes on the women’s team and holds the nation’s top times in the 200 free (1:41.93) and 500 free (4:34.06) and is ranked sixth in the 1650 free (15:59.71).

USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said in an interview last year that Thomas was not a USA Swimming member.


“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.    

“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 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.”  

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1 year ago

Can’t all of the ‘records’ reflect a ‘T’ after the name indicating orientation? I feel like they’re making it more difficult than necessary. Just build out a new category based on born sex and current orientation. A third category would not be difficult to implement. The ‘female’ records are not actually being broken, but the Transgender records are not being acknowledged as they rightfully should be. Denying that acknowledgment as a transgender record is like saying I don’t see you for who you are, and accept you for who you are…it should be offensive to them. Just support building out the category. If a mixed swim occurs, acknowledge male/female/trans male/trans female participated. It shouldn’t be this difficult.

Last edited 1 year ago by Alex
Bob Steele
1 year ago

To me the important word is FAIRNESS!!! Lia is still a MAN!!!

Laura Mitchell
1 year ago

It’s been a sad and rough stretch reading through a lot of bigotry. It is especially sad to see really hateful comments coming in from coaches, knowing that those comments are being read by youth athletes in all levels of the sport. Even more disturbing is that many of these comments have gone unmoderated by SwimSwam and on other forums when they are dehumanizing, violent and derogatory in nature. The opportunity to participate in sports, and in our case swimming specifically, enriches all of our lives. I’m hopeful that we (as a swimming community) get it together and start acting right

1 year ago

Love the misogyny in all these comments. Why is always women’s bodies people are trying to govern? (To include Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, Beatrice Masiling)

Coach Macgyver
Reply to  swammer
1 year ago

Lol, fighting for an equal playing field for biological women is now considered misogynistic.

Reply to  Coach Macgyver
1 year ago

You’re not familiar with Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, or Beatrice Masiling are you??

Coach Macgyver
Reply to  swammer
1 year ago

Keenly aware and their situation is nowhere similar to this situation. That’s why so many people from both sides support these athletes.

Don’t try to get it twisted.

1 year ago

I think Caitlyn Jenner said it best: “I don’t care what her testosterone levels are now. I care about what they were during her first 16 or 17 years of development”

Also, any good coach or swimmer understands the goal of a “perfect” freestyle stroke cycle is to attempt to achieve 100% positive resistance from catch to finish. A swimmer with a 4″ wingspan advantage could get up to 8 inches further per stroke cycle.

In the end, the elephant in the room is whether people are willing to admit that, by and large, the vast majority of 18 year old males are bigger, stronger and faster than they’re female counterparts.

The fact that it’s taboo to state the obvious… Read more »

Jay K.
1 year ago

Testosterone suppression or not is meaningless when it comes to male physical advantage–nothing changes what happens when a man has gone through puberty. Everyone knows this, but even if we didn’t, it has been well established scientifically. Why they pretend this is not the case is truly baffling, but hey, it’s only the women who suffer, so really, who cares (sarcasm)?

1 year ago

Now who is FINA gonna delegate this to?

Reply to  Entgegen
1 year ago

The highest bidder.

1 year ago

is lia a member of USA swimming?

Reply to  boop
1 year ago

As of December she was not.