NCAA Board of Governors to Discuss Transgender Participation Policy in Meeting Next Week

While the University of Pennsylvania and the Ivy League have recently issued statements in support of transgender athlete Lia Thomas racing in women’s events, the NCAA has been quiet on the matter up to this point. Thomas, who recorded the fastest times in the nation in the women’s 200 and 500-yard freestyle in early December and recently competed in her senior meet for Penn, followed all NCAA rules regarding her eligibility as she underwent more than one year of hormone therapy before competing in women’s events.

Initially, the NCAA did not respond to multiple inquiries from Swimming World regarding the fairness of its transgender policy and of Thomas competing as a female and also whether the organization was considering changes. However, the NCAA provided a short statement Friday that indicated it would at least consider the issue.

“The Board of Governors will review the NCAA transgender participation policy at its meeting next week and will issue a statement at that time,” an NCAA spokesperson wrote in an email. It is unclear if the NCAA is considering changes to its rules that would impact the upcoming championships season in swimming or if such late changes are even allowed. Regardless, the organization’s take on the current situation with Thomas will undoubtedly be revealing.

Also Friday, a leaked 2020 letter resurfaced that showed the NCAA was made aware that controversy regarding transgender athletes could arise. The letter, signed by more than 300 female athletes, encouraged the NCAA to take action to avoid future disputes. The organization leaked the letter to Outsports in August 2020 in an effort to expose the signatories as anti-trans.

In other news relating to Thomas, multiple top American swimmers weighed in last week on whether she should be eligible for NCAA competition, including 2021 Olympian Erika Brown and 2016 Olympian Jacob Pebley, while 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps shared his thoughts in an interview with CNN. Phelps stressed the importance of an even playing field, which he believes he never experienced as an athlete because of doping, but he acknowledged the importance of “being comfortable with who we are within our own skin.” Phelps acknowledged the complexities surrounding a tough issue n the sport

“It has to be a level playing field,” Phelps said. “That’s what sports are. I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think we all should be comfortable with who we are within our own skin, but I think sports should be played at an even playing field. I don’t know what that looks like in the future. It’s hard. Honestly, I don’t know what to say. It’s very complicated.”

C'mon Phelps - you can't be cancelled, you're a revered dude and king of the pool. You can't help out your fellow women athletes?