Consortium on Female Sport Demand NCAA and Penn Withdraw Name of Lia Thomas For NCAA Woman of the Year Award


Consortium on Female Sport Demand NCAA and Penn Withdraw Name of Lia Thomas For NCAA Woman of the Year Award

The Consortium on Female Sport, which is an international campaign group that advocates for the preservation of the female sports category, has released a statement calling for the NCAA and the University of Pennsylvania to withdraw the nomination of Lia Thomas for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

Last week, the NCAA released the names of the athletes who were nominated for the prestigious award, and Thomas’ name was included on the list. Thomas is the transgender woman who spent three years as a member of the men’s program at Penn before transitioning and competing during the 2021-22 campaign for the Quakers’ women’s squad. Thomas advanced to three finals at the NCAA Championships and captured the title in the 500-yard freestyle.

Thomas’ participation on the women’s team sparked controversy, with some arguing that her male-puberty advantage created an unfair competitive environment. Meanwhile, others argued that Thomas deserved the opportunity since she was identifying as her true self. When the NCAA Woman of the Year nominees were announced, the controversy returned to the spotlight.

The Consortium on Female Sport, in its press release, made the following statements.

In allowing this nomination to stand, the NCAA has relinquished its governance obligations in the following ways:

1. The NCAA has failed to ensure that eligibility rules are up to date and based on scientific fact.

2. The NCAA has knowingly placed a transgender athlete into an impossible situation as the symbol of its failed eligibility policy and has misled the public into believing that the inclusion of someone with a competitive advantage into the female category represents social justice.

3. The NCAA failed in its Title IX obligation to female athletes to provide them with the same fair competition as their male counterparts.

4. The NCAA continues to undermine entire cohorts of female swimmers by announcing a three-year “phase in” of a new FINA-consistent NCAA eligibility policy which would not have permitted Lia Thomas’ eligibility; thereby conveying the message that female swimmers are simply going to have to wait three more years for fair competition (full implementation of its new policy being scheduled for 2023-24).

By seeking to promote an athlete who was inappropriately admitted into the 2021-2022 collegiate female swimming competitions, both the NCAA and PENN send a signal that they no longer honour the principle of a level playing field for the female athlete category. Further, in doing so, both institutions exhibit extraordinary insensitivity in, once again, placing this transgender participant in the crosshairs of controversy.

We call for both the NCAA and PENN to demonstrate good governance by withdrawing the nomination of Lia Thomas.

In an editorial, Swimming World argued that the nomination of Thomas for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award was the latest insult to women’s sports and the fairness sought for biological women.