Controversy of the Year: Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Swims Fastest Times in the Nation

lia-thomas, transgender, penn swimming, ncaa

Controversy of the Year: Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Swims Fastest Times in the Nation

The most heated issue in swimming this year only emerged in the last two months of the year as University of Pennsylvania senior Lia Thomas recorded the fastest times in college swimming in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle as well as an elite performance in the 1650 freestyle. Those performances caused a stir because of Thomas’ stauts as a transgender athlete. She competed for the Penn men’s team for three years before completing the required one year of “testosterone supression treatment” in order to be eligible to compete as a female.

At the Zippy Invitational in early December, Thomas swam times of 4:34.06 in the 500 free (seven tenths ahead of Arizona State’s Emma Nordin as the country’s top swimmer), 1:41.93 in the 200 free (six tenths clear of Stanford’s Torri Huske for the No. 1 spot) and 15:59.71 in the 1650 free (sixth in the country). While she is swimming slower than her lifetime bests from her days on the men’s swim team, she has already achieved “A” cuts for the NCAA Championships. Her 200 and 500 times are actually faster than the winning times at last year’s NCAA Championships.

Unsurprisingly, Thomas’ impressive performances have raised controversy from those who believe that Thomas’ sex at birth should disqualify her from competing in female sporting events, despite the NCAA’s rules on athletes who are transitioning. The key question is whether rules designed to allow transgender athletes to participate in college athletics ensure a level playing field and are fair to cisgender female athletes.

Thomas is not the first collegiate swimmer to come out as transgender and make the switch between programs at their respective schools, but she is the first swimmer to approach championship-level swimming after undergoing a gender transition.

A group of Penn parents have joined the debate by writing numerous letters to the school, the Ivy League Conference and the NCAA arguing against Thomas’ participation in women’s sports because she underwent male puberty prior to transitioning. They also argued that her participation takes away opportunities from her cisgender teammates.

Thomas has fulfilled all NCAA requirements to compete in women’s events, so she is competing fully within the rules. However, it is unclear if she would be eligible to compete in USA Swimming competitions or beyond should she decide to continue her swimming career past this college season. Thomas has not been a member of USA Swimming since she transitioned, and according to USA Swimming documentation adopted in May 2018, any athlete seeking “to participate in swimming in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity and expression” would have to follow a seven-step process that includes extensive documentation and review from an Eligibility Review Panel that takes into account medical eligibility.

The International Olympic Committee has also made changes to its policies around transgender athletes competing in women’s sports. The organization debuted a 10-point framework that would determine how to handle specific circumstances involving a transgender athlete.

After she came out as transgender, Thomas admitted that she was unsure about what her swimming career might look like following her transition, but she said that she has found relief in the pool.

“The process of coming out as being trans and continuing to swim was a lot of uncertainty and unknown around an area that’s usually really solid,” she said, according to a story published Penn Today over the summer. “Realizing I was trans threw that into question. Was I going to keep swimming? What did that look like?”

The debate around Lia Thomas and whether she should be allowed to compete has only begun recently, and it will surely stretch into 2022 as she will be a favorite to capture individual NCAA titles this March.

47 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
avatar
Anonymous
4 months ago

Appreciate the continued coverage and new information.

avatar
cammie
2 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

funny how these trans female athletes sacrifice nothing while natural/biological female athlete have to sacrafice everything. being a trans woman is secondary to them being a trans athlete. Catalyn Jenner even said it was unfair and she’s would know! she was the number 1 male athlete AS a MAN, not a subpar athlete, desperate for a win. a real woman would not disenfranchise the very women they claim to identify with. a real woman doesn’t use their male privilege to ruin women’s sports. they understand the struggle of women not set it back. Ms. Jenner is a real woman! these others are just privileged white males claiming to be “trans” women when they don’t know the first thing about being a woman!

avatar
Dawn
1 month ago
Reply to  cammie

Someone didn’t read the article they’re commenting on

avatar
Stephanie
4 months ago

She is almost a full minute off of the 1650 record for NCAA Division 1. She has yet to win an actual national championship. To date, no trans woman is ever one a national title in NCAA division 1 sports. Trans women have also never won a title in the Olympics in 17 years or in the US Open in 45 years of competition. Combine those three top level sporting organizations together and you’ve got 73 years of data that says transgender women do not compete well at the highest levels against cisgender women. One or two trans women winning a championship someday in one of these three huge organizations may happen. Hasn’t happened yet though. But given the fact that just winning out lower levels has created a sky is falling mentality of the far right and transphobic people, I cannot imagine what the world will be like for trans people once one of them will actually wins a title. One out of at least 100,000 competitors in those 73 years. Note, at 1% of the population it should have been 1,000. This is not a problem or an issue, other than people wanting to create it into one. And that is called discrimination.

avatar
Critical Thinker
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

Stephanie, are you so desperate for a trans winner that you are willing to throw the need for fair competition out the window? Simply because there hasn’t been one, doesn’t mean it would be fair.
A victory that is achieved because the rules confer or an enormous advantage to a competitor is not a victory. It is a hollow shell and a mark of shame on those that allowed it.

avatar
Dispatch
4 months ago

Breaking records because of an unfair advantage destroys the efforts of those who earned those records fairly and by following rules that are there to prevent unfair advantages like this from ruining sports. It’s not because they are trans, it’s because they were born with an advantage over the opposite sex. It’s that simple. The fact that we have to say these things is evidence that this world has gone completely insane.

avatar
memyself andi
4 months ago

How can it be such an unfair advantage and yet produce no winners?

avatar
Dispatch
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

Stephanie, your entire argument is completely illogical. Also, biological males perform at a higher level than biological females. This is a fact. No amount of testosterone suppression is going to erase the physical advantage that someone is born with as a male. There is a reason males and females do not compete against each other. However, it is clear that in this case reason has been thrown out the window and replaced with madness. If this continues female sports will eventually be dominated by biological males. I am neither far right nor am I trans-phobic. It’s sad that you feel the need to label people something negative simply because they disagree with your opinion.

avatar
Anonymous
4 months ago
Reply to  Dispatch

Well said

avatar
Undepended
4 months ago
Reply to  Dispatch

I agree that it might be a total change of sports and competition on equal basis.

avatar
Pamela DeYoung
4 months ago
Reply to  Dispatch

I have yet to know of any female transgending to a male! To compete with the men in any sport!
I am a swimmer I am a female.
I would not want or allow a transgender male by birth swimmer to compete against me.
These people that are allowing this don’t have a brain!
If the transgenders are wanting to compete in swimming or any sport they need to have a transgender sport where they compete against other transgenders in that sport! Not competing against females when they are males biologically! There shouldn’t be a discussion on this subject. God made us in his image! Are they that insecure with themselves to become transgender? Wake up America! I pray for these people and they’re insanity with reality!
They are all insane in the membrane!

avatar
Carolyn
3 months ago
Reply to  Dispatch

Very well said. As an athlete, sports fan, former swimmer, and someone who is very supportive of transgender rights, I must echo the sentiment that transgender females participation in sports absolutely creates an unfair advantage. I hope this situation is resolved in a manner that allows a level playing field or females (born female) will have nowhere to compete.

avatar
Nick
3 months ago
Reply to  Dispatch

The fact is this… In the kingdom of animals which humans are part of, the male animal is generally larger and stronger than the female species. That’s a fact. There are of course some anomalies like the Black Widow and a few others. However, in almost all animal species, the males are stronger physically. Mentally, they are the same!

avatar
Mrs. T
2 months ago
Reply to  Dispatch

Dispatch.
Unfair advantage? Are you kidding me? Every single person involved in athletics at that level has an advantage over others. Sports are in essence a competition among those with an advantage over others.

BTW have you seriously taken a look at some of these women swimmers. I bet if you checked their testosterone levels they would exceed Ms Thomas’s. Then again facts are not what you and others care about. All you want is to keep pushing your bigotry and your preconceived ideas what a woman is is the true tragedy.

avatar
Gilman
1 month ago
Reply to  Mrs. T

Why aren’t these sports coed? Because it’s not bigotry to state the facts, that men have an advantage over women in sports. If you’re transgender, you deserve to be treated equally in society, however, that does not mean that society can accommodate you equally.
For example, if you were morbidly obese, I would treat you with the same amount of respect as anyone else because you are a human being. But, I can’t necessarily accommodate you the same as everyone else- meaning weight capacities to chairs, equipment, etc.
If you choose to become transgender, you choose a lifestyle that places you as a minor- minority, and that’s not society’s fault.

avatar
Katherine Williams
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

Stephanie, all of your cobbled together stats and convoluted arguments don’t address the actual 38 second lead with which Lia won last month. That’s what we’re actually talking about here. Quit dodging the discussion. How Lia can be excited about her wins is beyond me. The male privilege of her supporters is showing. And their emperor is naked.

avatar
Lyra
4 months ago

Well said. This is just another example of male privilege.

avatar
Just Think
3 months ago

Male Privilege? I’m pretty sure that the majority of the people supporting this push for “equality” are women. Men are aware of how unfair this is and I don’t know of any male friend, family member, acquaintance, coworker, etc that supports this. Men are laughing at the irony of it though.

avatar
Anonymous
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

The transgender trend wasn’t as prominent back then. And if it was, they were called drag queens. Get real America.

avatar
Dawn
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Dressing in drag and being trans are not the same thing. Catch up, Stephanie.

avatar
MM
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

I have to admit, comments by people who refuse to reference Lia by her chosen pronouns bother me. People who attack Lia personally bother me. But damn Stephanie if your comment didn’t take the cake!!! I am shocked.

avatar
human.animal.hybrids@gmail.com
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

I’m not sure I follow your argument. Is it that transwomen competing against women is not an issue because the percentage of transwomen is small? It’s still inappropriate. It’s just as inappropriate as a heavyweight boxer competing against a flyweight boxer because he feels like a little guy on the inside. Women should not be expected to dissolve their boundaries and give up their space in women’s sports to make transwomen feel like they are exactly the same as biological women. Transgender people are not the same as their biological counterparts and they never will be. It’s unfortunate that some people can’t accept that and move on.

avatar
harman
4 months ago

then why is there no framework for women going into mens sports? answer: because there is only a 1-way advantage. this only applies if she was at the top before her transition. the fault is not hers but the leniency that allowed her to participate with women.

avatar
Lyra
4 months ago

Why is it women are expected to accommodate all others’ wishes at their own expense? Lia has never had to train while suffering menstrual cramps or worry about the dreaded “gush” in the pool. She has never had the lived experience of growing up being fat-shamed by every jackhole riding by in a car w his friends. During her developmental years, she never had the lived experience of being presumed less than competent in school or of being a target while outside for a run. Sure, as a transfemale she may experience some form of that now but she’s an adult and has had the benefit of male privilege during her developmental years. Women’s sports was always a space where we could achieve and build confidence before we had to go back out to face another day of discrimination-it’s a brief reprieve. That she feels comfortable in the fact that she can go anywhere and do anything regardless of how it affects the women around her is proof that she is still comfortably donning her male privilege and reaping the benefits of it-and no amount of testosterone suppressants can negate that.

avatar
memyself
4 months ago

You really missd the fact that no trans woman has ever beat an elite women athlete in any sport. And yet to people like you they have an obvious unfair advantage.

avatar
Allison
2 months ago
Reply to  memyself

No trans woman should complete in a women’s sport.

Last edited 2 months ago by Allison
avatar
Beth Almeida
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

You poor, poor idiot. It doesn’t matter what he has won or not one at this point. What matters is the BIOLOGICAL FACT behind why he could do those things. There’s also the fact that REAL FEMALES did not cease to exist in the sport. He was swimming as a dude November of 2019 and all he had to do was yell trans and spend a year doing some sort of HRT to get a chance at shooting straight to the top?
I have a trans nephew [female to male] and I resent the people who take a deeply emotional issue and process and use it this way. Find something you’re good at and then let some random person take it over because they claim to be just like you.

avatar
Ana Morris
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

“She” LOL. That is a man in women’s clothing. Does not make him a she. Women swimmers should refuse to compete against men. It is obvious that they are stronger. He has muscles like Arnold. He can call himself whatever he wants, but it is a MAN. BAN MEN FROM WOMENS SPORTS, IT IS DANGEROUS AND UNFAIR.

avatar
memyself andi
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

The canadian gold medal soccer team from tokyo had a midfielder who was trans

avatar
memyself andi
4 months ago
Reply to  memyself andi

Sorry, I got they’re status wrong. They were born female and now claim to be neither. Presuably they are not taking hormone replacement therapy.

avatar
Concerned citizen
3 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

CeCé Telfer won an NCAA Division II national title in the hurdles in 2019. A couple other trans athletes have won national or world titles outside of college. Some trans women have been the best, or amongst the best, players on their college teams — like June Eastwood and Navi Huskey. Also, Lia was nowhere close to the best in his stint in the mens division. Then suddenly, now at the top and breaking records in only a few months at the womens division. Yeah, he definitely chose a playing field where he’s at an advantage.

avatar
Marc
4 months ago

“Lia” is a man. He should compete with his ow gender.

avatar
ana morris
4 months ago
Reply to  Marc

Yes Marc, the world has gone black before my eyes. This huge muscle bound guy is allowed to compete in women’s sports, is an outrage and unfair to women.

avatar
gus kuehne
4 months ago

I had a daughter & granddaughter who competed in women’s college sports … I strongly oppose men competing as women regardless of their performance, the meds they take. or operation they under go.

avatar
Andrei Vorontsov, OLY Coach
4 months ago

I already sent a few comments on this subject but
they were not published.
I have a student male swimmer who just took part in the World Short Course in Doha. 200 free he swam in 1.52.8 – so he was 71th among the males (he is number 7 or 8 in my training group of students only!). Among female swimmer at the World his result would bring him silver or bronze medal. That is the case. A very mediocre male swimmer may become “a female” World or Olympic Champions EASILY!!! That is the case. You just need to emagine (may be just foe a while) that you are a female, staying a matured man physically. It is not fare in respect to biological women (females) if we want to develope and defent female sport.

avatar
Anonymous
4 months ago

I totally agree!

avatar
memyself andi
4 months ago

You do realize that after a year of hormone therapy he would have much less muscle, much less bone density and be much slower at swimming.

avatar
Anonymous
2 months ago
Reply to  memyself andi

Still have bigger heart, lungs, feet and hands and have longer arms and legs. Champion men swimmers have her physical characteristics

avatar
Anonymous
4 months ago

I have no issue if a person wants to change their sex, but with that being said, I do believe there is a difference in performance with men vs women. If the NCAA is not going to change their rules on this issue, then I feel like there needs to be an asterisk beside their name , in this case Lia’s name, if she were to win a championship race. It was done when they banished certain knee skin suits saying that the material wasn’t to be used anymore. The newer knee skin suits have a different material now and aren’t as fast as they used to be. If there continues to be more trans athletes, then maybe have a separate race given to them.

avatar
anonimous
4 months ago

lets take out the torch
since the winnig argument, its women dont perform the same as men, lets also throw out all womens out of their jobs, because they biologically dont performe the same as men

avatar
Pamela DeYoung
4 months ago

I have yet to know of any female transgending to a male! To compete with the men in any sport!
I am a swimmer I am a female.
I would not want or allow a transgender male by birth swimmer to compete against me.
These people that are allowing this don’t have a brain!
If the transgenders are wanting to compete in swimming or any sport they need to have a transgender sport where they compete against other transgenders in that sport! Not competing against females when they are males biologically! There shouldn’t be a discussion on this subject. God made us in his image! Are they that insecure with themselves to become transgender? Wake up America! I pray for these people and they’re insanity with reality!
They are all insane in the membrane!

avatar
Where is the common sense
3 months ago

To the comment saying Trans never won NCAA championships.. FALSE.. CeCé Telfer won an NCAA Division II national title in the hurdles in 2019. A couple other trans athletes have won national or world titles outside of college. Some trans women have been the best, or amongst the best, players on their college teams — like June Eastwood and Navi Huskey. Also, Lia was nowhere close to the best in his stint in the mens division then suddenly, he’s now at the top and breaking records in only a few months at the womens division. What changed? Did he suddenly become better after he transitioned? Heck, he even got slower after transitioning. And yet he’s now dominating the competition. He did not get better. He’s a man a women’s competition.

avatar
Just Think
3 months ago

Male Privilege? I’m pretty sure that the majority of the people supporting this push for “equality” are women. Men are aware of how unfair this is and I don’t know of any male friend, family member, acquaintance, coworker, etc that supports this. Men are laughing at the irony of it though.

avatar
Katie
3 months ago

A bunch of comments from people who have zero experience with transitioning or any knowledge of what hormone treatment does to your athletic performance. Go through 3 years of HRT (what is now being required) and see of you’re still able to maintain your performance that you had while living as a man.

avatar
Rose
2 months ago

I don’t understand where the debate is, just open a third or fourth competition bracket where transgender people can compete among them, putting women to compete vs transgender guys/gals isn’t adequate

avatar
Maddhatta2001
2 months ago

We need to start a Trans league and let them compete against themselves. If not then boys vs. boys women vs. women… PERIOD

avatar
Tom Taylor
1 month ago

My heart goes out to the life long dedication given by women to compete, only to be nullified by a failed male swimmer, “that still is attracted to women I might add”, who actually ranked somewhere south of 250 nationally as the man he is! Shame on Democrats for allowing this!