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Penn to Work With NCAA to Support Transgender Athlete Lia Thomas's Participation at Upcoming Swim Championship

Penn Athletics told ESPN's Katie Barnes Thursday it would work with the NCAA in support of swimmer Lia Thomas as it pertains to Thomas's participation at the 2022 NCAA swimming and diving championships in Atlanta in March. 

Thomas, a transgender woman and senior at the school, has posted some of the NCAA's top times in the women's 200-yard, 500-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle events and has qualified for the NCAA championships in all three.

“Penn Athletics is aware of the NCAA's new transgender participation policy,” the school said in a statement to ESPN. “In support of our student-athlete, Lia Thomas, we will work with the NCAA regarding her participation under the newly adopted standards for the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship.”

In early January, both Penn and the Ivy League issued statements supporting Thomas. The school said it is “committed to being a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” with the conference adding it had an “unwavering commitment” to providing an “inclusive environment” for all athletes.

The news of the school's statement to ESPN on Thursday, however, comes one day after the NCAA announced it had updated its policy regarding participation for transgender athletes, adopting a model that is in line with those used by the U.S. and International Olympic Committees.

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The new policy, which is effective immediately, will take a sport-by-sport approach to participation that “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.” 

Transgender athlete participation will now be determined by the national governing body of that particular sport. USA Swimming's policy, adopted in 2018, uses a review panel to make individual determinations on eligibility.

Penn is scheduled to compete again on Saturday at Harvard.

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