The Potential Impact of Transgender Swimmers Beyond NCAA Competition
Since Penn’s Lia thomas Recorded the country’s fastest times in the 200 and 500-meter freestyle at the recent Zippy Invitational, the swimming world debated how their situation should be handled. Questions have largely revolved around whether a transgender swimmer should be allowed to compete in the NCAA Championships.
Thomas followed all the guidelines for changing an athlete’s gender category in college competitions. Transgender athletes transitioning to women must undergo at least one year of hormone therapy before competing in their new category. However, some have argued that male puberty gave Thomas inherent advantages over his female competitors.
The varsity championships are only three months away, but the discussion about transgender athletes competing in women’s sporting events is sure to continue. Thomas has not publicly discussed his hope of continuing to swim beyond this season, his final year of Penn eligibility, but as more young people across the country and the world begin to go transgender , there will surely be more in his situation.
Regarding Thomas, USA Swimming has confirmed Swimming world that she is not currently a member of the organization, and it is believed that Thomas has not competed in a swimming event in the United States since before her transition. This means that if Thomas decides to continue her career after March, she will have many steps to take before she is allowed to run.
According to USA Swimming documentation adopted in May 2018, any athlete seeking to “participate in swimming in a manner consistent with their gender identity and expression” should follow a seven-step process that includes full documentation and review by an Eligibility Review Committee that takes into account medical eligibility. Unlike the NCAA, there is no specific requirement for hormone therapy in USA Swimming’s Requirements for Transgender Athletes, implying that a committee would take these considerations into account on a case-by-case basis when determining. determination of eligibility.
If an athlete’s request to compete in a different gender category is denied, a National Eligibility Appeal Committee “will deal with all gender-related eligibility claims of any USA Swimming member, including including non-athlete members ”.
So there is a possibility for trans swimmers to compete in USA Swimming, and it is even possible for a transgender swimmer to represent the United States in an international competition, provided that the criteria of USA Swimming as well as of FINA , the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee are monitored.
At the Tokyo Olympics this summer, New Zealand weightlifter Laurier Hubbard made headlines as the first transgender woman to compete in the Games after the transition. A few months later, the IOC reorganized its policy on transgender athletes, repealing a provision that required any athlete in transition to undergo specific procedures and treatments.
In its place, the organization launched a 10-point approach that would determine how to deal with the specific circumstances of each transgender athlete. Some of these points include: inclusion, prevention of harm, non-discrimination, fairness, lack of presumption, an evidence-based approach and the right to privacy.
the full document worth the detour. He stresses that “everyone, regardless of their gender identity, expression and / or sexual variations, should be able to practice sport in safety and without prejudice” and that “measures should be put in place to make welcoming environments and sports facilities for people of all gender identities. The document later states that eligibility criteria should “not systematically exclude athletes from competition on the basis of their gender identity”.
However, equity issues will be addressed. Article 4, “Fairness”, states that sports organizations should establish eligibility criteria “proving that no athlete in a category has an unfair or disproportionate competitive advantage”. The document states that “no athlete should be… excluded from competition on the sole ground of a competitive advantage not verified, alleged or perceived to be unfair due to their sexual variations, physical appearance and / or transgender status. “.
In the next section, he notes that “any restrictions arising from the eligibility criteria must be based on sound, peer-reviewed research that: demonstrates a consistent, unfair and disproportionate competitive advantage in terms of performance”.
In short, the IOC’s requirements match those set out by USA Swimming, leaving organizations the flexibility to decide on athlete eligibility based on individual circumstances, rather than the general NCAA approach.
With Thomas’ situation right now, it’s a hypothetical situation. We don’t know if she will choose to pursue swimming beyond her college career, and we certainly won’t know if that’s possible until she begins USA Swimming’s process to determine her eligibility. It should be noted that Thomas has not competed in a long distance competition since 2017, long before she became transgender and began the transition. His career best times were 1:55 in the 200 free and 4:02 in the 400 free, but those times go back to 2017 and 2016, respectively.
Whatever Thomas decides for his future in swimming after this varsity season, also consider the bigger picture: Thomas is just the first prominent transgender swimmer, and we’ll see more of him in the years to come. We will see what is expected of women in transition to become eligible for swimming in the category of their preferred gender identity.