NCAA changes transgender athlete policies amid public outcries, scientific studies; Caitlyn Jenner weighs in

Effective immediately, the NCAA has changed its policies regarding the participation of transgender athletes in college sports. The statement came Wednesday, following cries for fairness and calls for reevaluation.

Athletes will now follow a sport-by-sport model, similar to those adopted by the U.S. and international Olympic committees, Sports Illustrated reported.

“We are steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports,” NCAA board chairman and president of Georgetown University John DeGioia said in a statement released Wednesday.

The issue of fairness was catapulted into the national spotlight recently with the emergence of University of Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas, who swam on the men’s team for three years before transitioning and joining the Quakers’ women’s team this season. She quickly began smashing Ivy League records finishing a full two seconds ahead of her opponents with a time of 1:48:73 in the 200 freestyle. Women’s sports advocates and parents at Penn took to the media to voice their frustrations.

Former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner made her position clear on Twitter:

And the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, weighed in, calling the issue “very complicated.”

“I think this leads back to the organizing committees again,” Phelps said during a recent appearance on CNN. “Because it has to be a level playing field. I think that’s something that we all need.”

While many see the advantage held by transgender athletes as a “common sense” issue, a study released last month by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a Canadian think tank, confirmed suspicions and essentially laid the controversial subject to rest, arguing that “there is neither a medical intervention nor a clever philosophical argument that can make it fair for trans women to compete in women’s sport.”

“Testosterone suppression does not remove the athletic advantage acquired under high testosterone conditions at puberty, while the male musculoskeletal advantage is retained.”

Compelled to respond to increasing criticism, The NCAA Board of Governors voted to pass the new policy as it “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fiarness, inclusion and safety for all who compete,” according to the report.

“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,” DeGioia added.

But just how “clear” are the new policies?

Each particular sport’s national governing body will be responsible for determining transgender athlete participation. For those sports without a national governing body, the international federation policy will be enacted.

While some are calling this a victory for women’s sports, others are saying the NCAA is simply passing the buck.

NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement saying the new policy brings collegiate sports closer to Olympic standards.

“Approximately 80% of U.S. Olympians are either current or former college athletes,” Emmet said. “This policy alignment provides consistency and further strengthens the relationship between college sports and the U.S. Olympics.”

Melissa Fine


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