Penn Pledges to Work With NCAA, Support Transgender Swimmer

Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas is shown during the playing of the national anthem before a swim meet, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Philadelphia. The NCAA has adopted a sport-by-sport approach for transgender athletes, bringing the organization in line with the U.S. and International Olympic Committees. NCAA rules on transgender athletes returned to the forefront when Penn swimmer Lia Thomas started smashing records this year.(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

By Associated Press

January 21, 2022

Lia Thomas competed on the men’s team her first three years at Penn, but after transitioning she moved to the women’s team.

PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania said it will work with the NCAA under its newly adopted standards for transgender athletes.

Swimmer Lia Thomas, who competed for the men’s team at Penn before transitioning, has qualified to compete in March at the 2022 NCAA swimming and diving championships. She is set to race in the women’s 200-yard, 500-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle.

“Penn Athletics is aware of the NCAA’s new transgender participation policy,” the Ivy League school said Thursday in a statement. “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.”

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.

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.

“Approximately 80% of US Olympians are either current or former college athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement announcing the guidelines. “This policy alignment provides consistency and further strengthens the relationship between college sports and the US Olympics.”

The NCAA policy is effective immediately, beginning with the 2022 winter championships. Penn did not immediately respond to requests for comment on how the policy would affect Thomas.

NCAA rules on transgender athletes returned to the forefront when Thomas started smashing records this year. She was on the men’s team her first three years, but after transitioning she moved to the women’s team.

The Board of Governors is suggesting NCAA divisions allow for additional eligibility if a transgender student-athlete loses eligibility based on the policy change. That flexibility is provided they meet the NCAA’s new guidelines.


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