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USA Swimming team to allow ‘non-elite’ athletes to compete ‘consistent with their gender identity’

USA Swimming announces it is going to release a ‘new policy shortly’ on whether ‘elite athletes’ like trans Lia Thomas can compete against other women after NCAA swerved a blanket policy

  • The USA Swimming team announced it will allow ‘non-elite’ athletes to compete in a way that is ‘consistent with their gender identity’
  • The announcement comes after transgender swimmer Lia Thomas’s record smashing run, as they continue to shape their transgender athlete policy 
  • The organization, which oversees more than 360,000 members, released the statement Thursday 
  • ‘USA Swimming believes in inclusivity and the opportunity for all athletes to experience swimming… consistent with their gender identity’
  • ‘We believe (the International Olympic Committee) will release a new policy shortly, which we will adopt for elite-level competitions,’ the statement reads
  • NCAA rules on transgender athletes returned to the forefront when University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, 22, started smashing records this year 


USA Swimming announced it will allow ‘non-elite’ athletes to compete in a way that is ‘consistent with their gender identity’ following Ivy League swimmer Lia Thomas’ record-smashing run.

The organization, which oversees more than 360,000 members, released a statement Thursday after the NCAA Board of Governors said they will update their guidelines to follow the wishes of each sport’s governing body.

‘USA Swimming firmly believes in inclusivity and the opportunity for all athletes to experience the sport of swimming in a manner consistent with their gender identity and expression,’ the statement read.

‘We also strongly believe in competitive equity, and, like many, are doing our best to learn and educate ourselves on the appropriate balance in this space.’

The announcement did not make clear whether transgender swimmers like Thomas are considered elite. The University of Pennsylvania swimmer, who has qualified to compete at the NCAA championships in March, has sparked debate over whether transgender women should  be allowed to compete against biological women.

‘The non-elite athlete inclusion procedures remain unchanged. Following broad transgender policy changes in November 2021, the IOC now requires International Federations to create their own sport-specific eligibility requirements,’ the USA Swimming statement went on to say.

‘We believe they will release a new policy shortly, which we will adopt for elite-level competitions.’

Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas, pictured, looks on in the warm-up pool during a swim meet, Saturday, January 8, 2022, in Philadelphia

Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas, pictured, looks on in the warm-up pool during a swim meet, Saturday, January 8, 2022, in Philadelphia

The statement cited the International Olympic Committee guidelines on transgender participation, which they deemed ‘groundbreaking’ last November.

The IOC now requires Sports federation, otherwise known as FINA, to create its own sport-by-sport-eligibility requirements in regards to transgender athletes. 

USA Swimming’s announcement comes a day after the NCAA washed its own hands of the swirling controversy surrounding transgender athletes in college athletics, by letting the national governing bodies of each sport dictate who can compete.

Under the new guidelines, approved by the NCAA Board of Governors on Wednesday, transgender participation for each sport will be determined by the policy for the sport’s national governing body, subject to review and recommendation by an NCAA committee to the Board of Governors.

Thomas looks on as she celebrates senior day with her teammates during a swim meet, Saturday, January 8, 2022, in Philadelphia

Thomas looks on as she celebrates senior day with her teammates during a swim meet, Saturday, January 8, 2022, in Philadelphia

Penn swimmer Lia Thomas competes in a 500 meter race in Philadelphia, Saturday, January 8, 2022

Penn swimmer Lia Thomas competes in a 500 meter race in Philadelphia, Saturday, January 8, 2022

NCAA rules on transgender athletes returned to the forefront when University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, 22, started smashing records this year. 

She was on the men’s team her first three years, but she is competing for the women this season after transitioning.

The new NCAA policy, released ahead of Thursday’s official meeting of the NCAA Board of Governors, states that when there is no national governing body, that sport’s international federation policy would be in place. 

If there is no international federation policy, previously established IOC policy criteria would take over.

The NCAA’s previous policy, adopted in 2010, was uniform across all sports and was based on hormone therapy requirements. 

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