Jan 20, 2022 - Sports

NCAA calls on each sport to set eligibility rules for trans athletes

football field
Photo: Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The NCAA approved a new policy Wednesday for transgender athletes, calling for each sport's national governing body to determine its own eligibility requirements for participation.

Why it matters: The policy change comes amid a national debate on the issue of inclusion of transgender athletes in collegiate sports, which has dovetailed the introduction of Republican-sponsored anti-trans legislation across the U.S.

  • The NCAA said the rules are in line with recent policy changes from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic committees, and International Olympic Committees. The previous policy was uniform across all sports and contingent on hormone therapy requirements.

What they're saying: "We are steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports," said John DeGioia, chair of the Board of Governors and president at Georgetown University, in a news release.

  • "It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy," he added.
  • "Approximately 80% of U.S. Olympians are either current or former college athletes," said NCAA president Mark Emmert. "This policy alignment provides consistency and further strengthens the relationship between college sports and the U.S. Olympics."

The big picture: The new sport-by-sport policy will be effective immediately, starting with the 2022 winter championships.

  • If a sport has no national governing body policy on transgender participation, then the sport's international federation policy will be followed, the press release states.

Worth noting: The University of Pennsylvania released a statement Thursday acknowledging the policy change and voicing support for Lia Thomas, a 22-year-old transgender swimmer whose record-breaking campaign became a focus of the national debate.

  • “Penn Athletics is aware of the NCAA’s new transgender participation policy. In support of our student-athlete, Lia Thomas, we will work with the NCAA regarding her participation under the newly adopted standards for the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship," the statement read.
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