COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – With federal Title IX regulations forthcoming and proposed state legislation looming, Ohio State University is preparing for possible changes to policies for transgender student-athletes.

In a brief update during a Board of Trustees committee meeting last week, Amy Golian, senior associate general counsel and senior assistant vice president in Ohio State’s Office of Legal Affairs, said the university is poised for the release of the Department of Education’s finalized Title IX regulations regarding athletics. The proposed regulations prohibit categorical bans on trans athletes’ participation, but it allows schools, colleges and universities to impose restrictions that serve “important educational objectives.”

“The Department of Education isn’t requiring a one-size-fits-all, but it’s rather deferring to the schools to develop a framework that works for them,” Golian told trustees.

In addition to serving important educational interests – which the Department of Education said can include promoting fairness and preventing injury – policies restricting trans athletes’ participation must account for the unique nature of each sport and age of athletes. The restrictions also must minimize harm to trans student-athletes rendered ineligible to play.

The pending regulations come as dozens of bills have been introduced across the U.S. limiting trans participation in sports. Ohio’s House Bill 6, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” issues a blanket ban on trans girls and women from playing on women’s teams at all educational levels. 

Such bans contradict the trans athlete policies of state athletic associations and the NCAA — and are a concern for Ohio’s public colleges and universities.

The NCAA’s updated policy defers eligibility requirements to the national and international governing bodies of each sport. Through the 2023-24 season, trans women must submit their testosterone levels before all competitions, their first championship competition and any competition in a non-championship segment. Starting in the 2024-25 school year, the NCAA will require trans athletes to submit two sport-determined tests a year and within four weeks of championship competitions.

In a letter sent in early May to the Ohio House Higher Education Committee, the Inter-University Council reminded the committee that the NCAA has a “vigorous history” of policymaking for trans athletes – and that the unconditional prohibition on trans women playing on women’s teams will violate the federal government’s mandate.

“The IUC shares the concerns of the sponsor and proponents about the rights of individual student-athletes,” Laura Lanese, president of the Inter-University Council, wrote. “We would ask the committee to carefully consider the existing NCAA and federal regulatory frameworks while reviewing this bill.”

National sports bodies vary widely in their approach to trans athlete eligibility. On the most restrictive end, the U.S. Golf Association requires trans women to undergo genital surgery and submit all hospital records and clinical notes related to the surgery, as well as provide testosterone levels and proof of hormone treatment, before competing in any championship competition.

USA Swimming requires trans women to demonstrate testosterone levels under 5 nanograms per liter – a level between the average amounts for cisgender women and men – for at least three years before applying for eligibility. Swimmers must be approved by a panel of three medical experts who account for any “competitive advantage” in trans women who transitioned after puberty.

Several organizations have no specific policies, including USA Softball, USA Shooting, USA Baseball and USA Basketball, while others explicitly bar discrimination based on gender identity. USA Gymnastics, for example, has no restrictions on trans athletes’ eligibility at most levels of competition.

“Transgender and non-binary athletes in levels other than Elite are permitted to compete without restriction in the gender category with which they identify,” the policy reads.

An Ohio State spokesperson did not directly say whether the university will consider establishing its own policies upon release of the federal regulation, but he reaffirmed the university’s preference that such policies be developed by athletic associations and conferences, not the legislature.

“Enacting this legislation could place the university out of compliance with NCAA eligibility policies and jeopardize our student-athletes’ ability to compete in the sports they love,” the spokesperson said in an email.