Lia Thomas’ win sparks huge controversy over trans athletes in women’s sport
Lia Thomas made history last week as the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I swimming championship. The fifth-year senior won the 500m freestyle title in Atlanta with a season best time of 4:33.24.
A month ago, Thomas won his third Ivy league swimming championship and set several Ivy league records.
Thomas is at the center of controversy despite her victory, as many have questioned whether she should have been allowed to compete in the women’s division.
USA Swimming policy clearly states that trans athletes must undergo three years of hormone replacement therapy before they are allowed to compete.
Thomas was six months away from that requirement, but the NCAA refused to follow USA Swimming rules and allowed the senior to play in last week’s meet in Atlanta.
Many people have weighed in on the issue, with some condemning the NCAA’s decision, and others supporting it.
Protesters from Save Women’s Sports and Young Women of America were active outside the McAuley Aquatic Center hours before the event.
On the other side of the street, Georgia Tech graduates and undergraduates came together to show their support for Thomas and condemn other protesters.
Concerned Women for America announced last week that it has formally filed a Title IX lawsuit against the University of Pennsylvania. The organization argues that the university violates Title IX by allowing Thomas to compete on the same team as the women.
CWA President and CEO Penny Nance released a statement in conjunction with the complaint.
“The future of women’s sport is in jeopardy and the equal rights of female athletes is [at risk]”, Nance said. “We have filed a formal civil rights complaint against UPenn in response to this injustice.”
Thomas declined to attend the post-race press conference required by the NCAA and instead elected to be interviewed by Elizabeth Beisel after the race.
“It means the world is here,” Thomas said. “I try to ignore it as much as I can. I try to focus on my swimming, what I need to do to prepare for my races [and] block everything else.
Virginia Tech swimmer and former Olympian Reka Gyorgy sent a letter to the NCAA last week lambasting the NCAA’s decision to allow transgender swimmer Lia Thomas to compete in the women’s division at the NCAA swimming championships.
“This is my last college meeting and I feel frustrated. I feel like that last spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA decision…I know you could say I had the l opportunity to swim faster and be in the top 16, but this situation makes things a little different, and I can’t help but be angry or sad. It hurts me, my team and others pool women,” she wrote.
Gyorgy finished 17th in the 500 yard freestyle and just missed the cut as the top sixteen swimmers qualified for the final.
Gyorgy also said that “every event that transgender athletes entered was a slot taken away from biological women throughout the competition.”
Gyorgy asked the NCAA to think about all female swimmers and what it would be like to be in their shoes. She ended the letter by thanking the NCAA and telling them to make “the right changes for our sport and a better future for swimming.”
In a recent article about Thomas published in Sports Illustrated, sources close to Penn’s swim team estimated that only six to eight of the team’s 37 members were “diehard supporters” of the swimmer who competed in the men’s team during its first three years of career. University.
Author Robert Sanchez said about half the team “opposed her competing with other women”, while others “avoided debate”.
After the story was published, a group of teammates posted a public message of support for Thomas amid the controversy.
In response to this, another group of teammates wrote an anonymous letter to the Ivy League asking that Thomas be removed from their next swimming championship meet.
The letter sent to the Ivy League read, “If she were to be eligible to compete, she could now break Penn, Ivy and NCAA women’s swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete.