On Title IX’s 50th, USOPC seeks accord on transgender policy

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The biggest gathering of the year for U.S. Olympic policymakers fell on Thursday, the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Not surprisingly, one of the most urgent debates behind closed doors was what the future of the law might mean for transgender athletes in sports.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee board members are trying to define their federation’s role in the discussion, as states and high school athletic committees in the U.S., along with global bodies that run swimming, rugby and, soon, possibly track and field, press forward with their own policy changes.

“This is one where there is not easy alignment,” board chair Susanne Lyons said. “It’s not our role to actually set the policy. But the question is, what should the USOPC be doing on this, and we agree that we should have an articulated point of view.”

It could take months to develop a policy, which will likely come in the form of recommendations that will not be binding.

USA Swimming is already scrambling after introducing its own policy only to see the international swimming federation, FINA, put out its own guidelines that were essentially opposite of the American organization’s rules. FINA’s rules only permits swimmers who transitioned before age 12 to compete in women’s events. USA Swimming’s rules required athletes to show evidence of testosterone levels of less than 5 nanomoles per liter for a minimum period of 36 months.

Also on Thursday, the Biden Administration proposed new rules that would enshrine the rights of LGBTQ students under Title IX. More specific rules dealing with the rights of transgender students in school sports will be released later.

All this comes as states are stepping in to regulate rules regarding transgender sports. Laws restricting transgender participation in female sports have been passed in no fewer than 19 states over the past two years.

On the international level, the IOC implemented a new framework in March to guide policy for transgender sports. It suggested that international federations (IFs) in each sport set their own rules based on science and the specific nature of the sports themselves.

That left many of the more than four dozen organizations that run the individual sports in the United States waiting for guidance from the IFs. The USOPC is the umbrella organization that oversees them.

Speaking at the USOPC’s annual assembly, Lyons said that although nothing the USOPC would come up with would be binding, it has a role as a national leader in sports to draft a policy.

It’s a difficult task, especially given the makeup of the board, which includes advocates on both sides of the issue — those who would like to see full inclusion for transgender athletes in women’s sports and those who want to protect the space that Title IX carved out for women.

“No one’s really coming and begging us for our point of view,” Lyons said. “But on the other hand, we’re the leaders of the Olympic movement in the U.S., so we have to have a point of view. And it’s not necessarily going to be a point of view that’s 100% aligned with everyone’s opinion.”

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