NCAA Updates Transgender Athlete Policy, Effective Immediately
Updated: Apr 25
Statement from Chris Mosier, founder of transathlete.com:
The NCAA Board of Governors on Wednesday voted in support of a sport-by-sport approach to transgender athlete participation, effective immediately with additional requirements slated to be rolled out in three tiers through the 2023-24 season.
The new policy refers to the 2011 policy regarding hormone use, but now also relies on sport national governing bodies (NGBs) and international federations (IFs) for rules; these rules vary from sport to sport, making the landscape for an NCAA athlete incredibly difficult to navigate. The new requirements also put the NCAA in the business of hormone testing and requires athletes to meet the requirements of NGBs and IFs - another variable that is different depending on the sport and federation.
This update complicates the NCAA policy in a way that I don’t believe they are equipped to handle. The IOC recently shifted to a human rights-based framework that puts the responsibility on NGBs and IFs, and given that many have not created policies for transgender athletes (previously relying on IOC guidelines) and that policies vary from sport NGB to NGB, tracking compliance is going to be a nightmare for the NCAA. This creates many different standards for trans athletes.
On top of that, there are 7 states in the country that passed laws banning trans athletes in college sports, creating further contradictions.
It is clear this policy is a direct response to pressure surrounding a current athlete competing in NCAA. It is amazing to me that after years of discussions and calls for more research that a new policy could be whipped together under pressure from people who don’t want to see a great athlete who is transgender succeed. After a year of the NCAA “monitoring the situation” around bills banning trans athletes, and after a gender-identity summit and calls for more research before even updating the very out of date language in the 2010 policy, the NCAA suddenly found some way to take action.
The good news is that transgender athletes are not trying to cheat anyone, and when we play, we go above and beyond to ensure we are compliant with the rules. While these rules are a messy web for any athlete to navigate, when we have athletes competing, I will be cheering for them louder than ever before.
Press release from NCAA:
"The NCAA Board of Governors on Wednesday voted in support of a sport-by-sport approach to transgender participation that preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete. The new policy, effective immediately, aligns transgender student-athlete participation for college sports with recent policy changes from the U.S. and International Olympic Committees.
Like the Olympics, the updated NCAA policy calls for transgender participation for each sport to be determined by the policy for the national governing body of that sport, subject to ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to the Board of Governors. If there is no NGB policy for a sport, that sport's international federation policy would be followed. If there is no international federation policy, previously established IOC policy criteria would be followed.
The Board of Governors urged the divisions to provide flexibility to allow for additional eligibility if a transgender student-athlete loses eligibility based on the policy change provided they meet the newly adopted standards.
The policy is effective starting with the 2022 winter championships. 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.
"We are steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports," said John DeGioia, chair of the board and Georgetown president. "It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy."
"Approximately 80% of U.S. Olympians are either current or former college athletes," said Mark Emmert, NCAA president. "This policy alignment provides consistency and further strengthens the relationship between college sports and the U.S. Olympics."
Additionally, the NCAA's Office of Inclusion and the Sport Science Institute released the Gender Identity and Student-Athlete Participation Summit Final Report (PDF). The report assists ongoing membership efforts to support inclusion, fairness, and the mental and physical health of transgender and non-binary student-athletes in collegiate sport.