NCAA Reviews New US Swimming Policy for Transgender Athletes

Although the NCAA is notoriously slow on legislative matters and isn’t scheduled to meet until April, Dent said the panel could meet sooner by teleconference, possibly before the swimming championships. NCAA, begins in Atlanta on March 16.

Robin Harris, chief executive of the Ivy League, said the NCAA’s willingness to change eligibility criteria mid-season is unprecedented and ill-considered.

“It’s wrong. It’s not fair,” Harris said. “This is a perfect example of the risks and uncertainty created when the NCAA chooses to implement a policy immediately without any accounting. This is reactionary and it creates uncertainty, and the impact it has on our transgender athletes is something I’m concerned about.”

What has caught the attention of experts in US swimming guidelines is that it requires a transgender woman to maintain testosterone levels below 5 nanomoles per liter, down from 10 nanomoles per liter, for the 36 months before can participate in women’s events. Most sports require their benchmarks to be met in 12 months, although some require up to 24 months. (The NCAA requires transgender women to undergo hormone therapy for 12 months before they are eligible to compete in the women’s divisions.)

“Nothing justifies three years,” said Joanna Harper, who is visiting transgender sport at Loughborough University in the UK. While Harper often advocates for testosterone claims for transgender athletes, she said the 36-month claim is unprecedented and not based on any scientific basis to date.

Testosterone suppression in transgender women reduces hemoglobin levels during the first few months of hormone therapy, affecting the amount of oxygen that can be transported in red blood cells. It also reduces muscle mass. Although such changes are typically slower, the biggest changes in strength occur within the first year, Harper said. Experiencing herself as a transgender woman and a long-distance runner, Harper says she has seen her competitive edge dwindle after nine months of hormone therapy.

Katrina Karkazis, author of the book “Testosterone: Unauthorized Biography says the focus on testosterone testing for transgender athletes has been misplaced because of how obscure the science is. “You can’t show the effect of any one two-variable on a complex athletic performance,” she said. NCAA Reviews New US Swimming Policy for Transgender Athletes

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