The NCAA on Wednesday announced a new policy in which the eligibility requirements for transgender athletes will be determined by each sport's national governing body.
The new requirements come into force immediately. The previous policy, adopted in 2010, was uniform across all sports and was based on hormone therapy requirements.
The new policy comes at a time when transgender athletes are still the focus of national debate. Since 2020, 10 states have enacted laws restricting the participation of transgender athletes in school sports, many of which affect collegial participation at the competitive, club, and intramural levels.
This winter, transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania recorded the best times in the country in the 200-yard and 500-yard women's freestyle. Under the NCAA's new policy, Thomas must meet U.S. Swimming's criteria to qualify for the NCAA Championships in March.
USA Swimming did not respond to a request for comment on its existing policy. The University of Pennsylvania also did not respond to a request for comment.
"We are steadfast in our support for transgender student-athletes and the promotion of justice across college sports," said John DeGioia, chairman of the NCAA Board of Governors and president of Georgetown. "It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences, and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, secure, and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy."
Starting with the 2022 Winter Championships, transgender athletes wishing to compete must document their testosterone levels, in accordance with their specific sport, four weeks before the sport's selection of championship participants. If a national governing body does not have a policy, then the policy of the International Federation will be used. If the International Federation does not have a policy, then the policy of the previously established International Olympic Committee will be used.
During the 2022-23 season, athletes must provide testosterone level documentation at three predetermined points, including four weeks before the championship selection.
"This update complicates NCAA policies in a way that I do not think they are equipped to handle," said Chris Mosier, a duathlete and advocate for transgender inclusion. "Given that many NGBs have not made policies for transgender athletes, and that policies vary from sports NGB to NGB, compliance compliance will be a nightmare for the NCAA. This creates many different standards for trans athletes."
Former Olympic swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a member of the Women's Sports Policy Working Group, also took issue with the revisions.
"The new NCAA policy sounds a lot like the old one," she said. "The board has not resolved the difficult balance between justice, gambling security and inclusion. The failed women know not to prioritize justice."
The NCAA policy shift is an attempt to bring the organization in line with the IOC's approach.
"About 80% of U.S. Olympians are either current or former college athletes," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. "This policy adjustment provides consistency and further strengthens the relationship between college sports and the U.S. Olympics."