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In a press release published yesterday (1 February), USA Swimming announced that swimmers competing in the women’s league will have to demonstrate low levels of testosterone for 36 months.
A three-person decision-making medical panel will also decide whether ‘prior physical development of the athlete as a male’ gives them an ‘advantage over cisgender female competitors’.
The news follows recent controversy surrounding University of Pennsylvania trans swimmer Lia Thomas after she blew the opposition out of the water at the Zippy Invitational Event in Akron, Ohio, in December.
As well as finishing an incredible 38 seconds ahead of her teammate in the 1,650 yard freestyle event, Lia also smashed the US women's record in the 500 yard race by 14 seconds.
And the athlete made it a hat-trick, claiming gold in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:41:93, which was seven seconds ahead of her nearest rival and another US women's record.
Following her feats, some critics said they believe Lia had an unfair advantage as a competitor in the division, including an anonymous swimmer from UPenn who told Outkick that she and Thomas' fellow teammates were upset by her performance.
"They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in it, they're going to lose,” she said.
However, amid USA Swimming’s policy update, the athlete’s teammates released a statement supporting Lia which reads (via ESPN): “We want to express our full support for Lia in her transition. We value her as a person, teammate, and friend.
“The sentiments put forward by an anonymous member of our team are not representative of the feelings, values, and opinions of the entire Penn team, composed of 39 women with diverse backgrounds.
“We recognize this is a matter of great controversy and are doing our best to navigate it while still focusing on doing our best in the pool and classroom.”
According to the new rules, which came into effect immediately, Lia would not have been eligible to compete at the time of her wins, as she started transitioning from male to female in May 2019.
The criteria states that ‘the concentration of testosterone in the athlete’s serum has been less than 5 nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 36 months before the date of application.’
This detail has been criticised too, with diversity, equity and inclusion journalist Dawn Ennis stating that the new, lower mandate for testosterone levels is ‘for a far longer period than any sporting organisation has ever required.’
USA Swimming said in its press release that it ‘will continue to learn and to evaluate its policy, with a focus on balancing inclusion and equity, and will continue to work closely with FINA on global standards’.
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