USA Swimming releases new transgender policy, impact on Lia Thomas unclear

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USA Swimming, the national governing body for competitive swimming, released its Athlete Inclusion, Competitive Equality and Eligibility Policy in the face of all the controversy over biological male athletes who identify as a woman competing against biological female athletes.

It remains to be seen what impact the new policy ensuring “competitive equity” has on University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, who has been at the center of all the recent attention on women’s swimming. Meanwhile, in a reflection of the mentality of today’s generation, Thomas’ teammates released a joint statement in support of the athlete.

USA Swimming said Tuesday in a statement that it “will continue to champion gender equity and the inclusivity of all cisgender and transgender women and their rights to participate in sport, while also fervently supporting competitive equity at elite levels of competition.”

“The development of the elite policy therefore acknowledges a competitive difference in the male and female categories and the disadvantages this presents in elite head-to-head competition,” the statement said. “This is supported by statistical data that shows that the top-ranked female in 2021, on average, would be ranked 536th across all short course yards (25 yards) male events in the country and 326th across all long course meters (50 meters) male events in the country, among USA Swimming members. The policy therefore supports the need for competitive equity at the most elite levels of competition.

“While recognizing the need for the aforementioned guidelines in elite competition, sport is an important vehicle for positive physical and mental health, and, for this reason, USA Swimming remains steadfast in its continued commitment to greater inclusivity at the non-elite levels.”

In effect, USA Swimming is establishing different criteria to compete at an elite level.

“In order to balance these two priorities, specific guidelines have been developed for both non-elite and elite athletes and elite events,” the body explained. “At the non-elite level, an inclusive process has been established by which an athlete can elect to change their competition category in order for them to experience the sport of swimming in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity and expression. At the elite level, a policy has been created for transgender athlete participation in the U.S. that relies on science and medical evidence-based methods to provide a level-playing field for elite cisgender women, and to mitigate the advantages associated with male puberty and physiology. Elite athletes shall include any athlete who has achieved a time standard and desires to participate in elite events as defined in the policy.

A decision-making panel comprised of three independent medical experts will implement the elite athlete policy based on the following criteria:

  • Evidence that the prior physical development of the athlete as a male, as mitigated by any medical intervention, does not give the athlete a competitive advantage over the athlete’s cisgender female competitors.
  • Evidence that the concentration of testosterone in the athlete’s serum has been less than 5 nmol/L (as measured by liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry) continuously for a period of at least thirty-six (36) months before the date of application.


As of December, according to USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey, Thomas wasn’t a member of USA Swimming, Fox News reported, citing SwimSwam.

The network noted that the NCAA updated its transgender participation policy last month to make determinations on a sport-by-sport basis, and if there is no national governing body for the sport, then International Olympic Committee policy will be followed.

The updated NCAA policy says that by March “transgender student-athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. Starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender student-athletes will need documented levels at the beginning of their season and a second documentation six months after the first. They will also need documented testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections. Full implementation would begin with the 2023-24 academic year.”

Adding to the confusion, Fox News reported that “it’s unclear whether USA Swimming’s Elite Athlete policy will also be the governing basis for all collegiate athletes moving forward.”

A “joint statement” from Thomas’ teammates was released earlier in the day, according to ESPN.

“We want to express our full support for Lia in her transition. We value her as a person, teammate, and friend. The sentiments put forward by an anonymous member of our team are not representative of the feelings, values, and opinions of the entire Penn team, composed of 39 women with diverse backgrounds,” the statement read

The left-leaning sports network said the “statement was not signed, but a Penn spokesperson said it represented ‘several’ members of the team.”

A Penn swimmer spoke to Outkick in December about Thomas competing on the women’s team this season after spending three seasons swimming as a male.

“Pretty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this,” the female athlete said.  “Our coach just really likes winning. He’s like most coaches. I think secretly everyone just knows it’s the wrong thing to do.”

“When the whole team is together, we have to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, go Lia, that’s great, you’re amazing.’ It’s very fake,” she added.

There was a story last week that some members of the Penn swim team are uncomfortable sharing a locker room with Thomas, who still has male genitalia, saying the transgender athlete doesn’t always cover up and that Thomas dates women. Those concerns were reportedly brushed off by the University of Pennsylvania.

“It’s definitely awkward because Lia still has male body parts and is still attracted to women,” one swimmer said, according to the Daily Mail.

Tom Tillison


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