Guest Editorial: Defense of Lia Thomas Rang Hollow and Missed Point of Controversy

lia-thomas-penn, transgender

Guest Editorial: Defense of Lia Thomas Rang Hollow and Missed Point of Controversy

In response to the recent guest editorial by Lucas Draper, which defended the participation of Lia Thomas as a member of the women’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Linda Blade has penned the following rebuttal.  Blade is the author, with journalist Barbara Kay, of the book UNSPORTING: How Trans Activism and Science Denial are Destroying Sport,

By Linda Blade, PhD Kinesiology, Sport Performance Coach (@CoachBlade on Twitter)

Jan 11, 2022

The recent editorial in Swimming World Magazine defending the right of Lia Thomas (LT) to swim as a woman deserves a response.
Allow me to begin this critique with applause for author Lucas Draper (LD). As a female athlete who self-identifies as a man, LD has chosen the ethical pathway in competing in a much more difficult field with male swimmers rather than to be competing unfairly against fellow females while doping.

Unfortunately, in the manner typical of proponents of gender ideology, LD’s editorial comments deploy escalating levels of emotional gaslighting.

Firstly, there is the appeal to our common human condition: “Lia Thomas is a person first” and “deserves some basic human decency.” This statement is unconvincing. Female athletes are equally deserving of respect and decency.

Secondly, there is the presumption to interpret intent: “No transgender athlete wants to compete in their preferred gender simply because they could get an edge.” How does LD know? How does anybody know what is in the heart and mind of each competitor? It is irrelevant, in any case. We don’t select sports teams or eligibility based upon someone’s internal motivation. It is not the role of sports officials to read hearts and minds of athletes. When rules are well constructed based upon verifiable physical reality it becomes unobjectionable for officials to make the call about eligibility, which is necessary to keep officials involved. Hurt feelings should have nothing to do with placement in a sports category.

Thirdly, there is implied discrimination: Lia Thomas “should be allowed to compete as who she is.” This statement is not only meaningless, but also threatens the integrity of sports. What if “who she is” happens to be a 20-year-old seeking to compete with 13-year-olds? Participation in sports necessarily involves restrictions. It can never be an open forum where competitors are allowed to join based upon subjective preference.

Fourthly, there is an appeal to victimhood while victimizing others: “Lia Thomas experiences far more scrutiny over her physical form than I will ever have to deal with” and putting the focus on LT is “mean.” Also, Lia “does not deserve to be at the center of this issue.” Yes, of course LT is scrutinized! Because being biologically male in a female competition is not fair. Scrutiny by officials and the public is part of sports. It is not being “mean.” LT chooses to be in the spotlight.

Fifthly, there is the attempt to shut down debate: “She is a woman, she uses she/her pronouns, and any reference to her otherwise is offensive.” Gender ideologues are the ones who profess that usage of pronouns operates independently of the two biological sexes. If so, then a pronoun now operates much in the same way as other kinds of identities – such as, “I am a Democrat” or “I am Muslim.” Would we ever select someone for a sports competition based upon their religion?

Self-identity is not of primary concern in sports. What we care about is the fundamental biological blueprint that predestines an athlete to be either male or female from conception onward. The distinction between male versus female biological design is categorical; in the same way that, say, a NASCAR vehicle is distinct from an F1 car in auto racing.

Different design. Different category. Different races.

No offense would be taken if somebody said: “Don’t put the F1 car into the NASCAR race.” Why would it be any different with human bodies? For LD to pretend that reference to an athlete’s biological blueprint is deeply offensive is disingenuous in the extreme. This is a conversation that we must have to preserve women’s sports!

Both sides of the trans argument agree on one thing: the NCAA is ultimately responsible for the Lia Thomas debacle. LD puts it this way: “No transgender person should have to fear abuse” and makes the point that Lia Thomas is “just following the rules.”

I agree! Faulty NCAA rules have thrust LT (plus female swimmers and officials!) into this controversy. LT, having the sex blueprint “male,” should feel perfectly safe and accepted swimming against men while socially self-identifying as a woman. Let the men not bully LT!

The NCAA rules on gender self-identification were poorly conceived back in 2011 and look ridiculous now that LT has chosen to take advantage of them.

When it comes to offering a solution to this problem, LD equivocates. On the one hand LD says, “transgender athletes should have equal opportunity to participate in sports.” (I would argue that they already DO have that opportunity – in the category that matches their biological sex). On the other hand, LD insists that the “integrity of women’s sports must be preserved” and must be based upon “sound medical knowledge and scientific validity.” (Wasn’t this the purpose of Title IX?)

Contrary to what was presented to the NCAA back in 2011, all research to date indicates that medical intervention is completely inadequate in transforming a male body into the female design – anatomically or physiologically – as discussed in this review of the literature by Hilton and Lundberg.

Given the overwhelming scientific evidence now available showing that males will always maintain a physical advantage over females in sports involving strength, speed, power and reaction time, the NCAA must undertake a re-assessment of its policy ASAP!

In the editorial I am responding to, LD refers to the LT controversy as the “complex issue of transgender athlete participation.”

No, the solution for the NCAA need not be complex in the least. Once it is acknowledged that sex takes the pre-eminence over self-declared gender and now that the collective evidence regarding gender transition is understood, the solution becomes very straight forward.

The way to ensure full “inclusion” while maintaining the integrity of women’s sports is to convert the men’s category into “open” (for men, transwomen, and other identities) and keep the women’s category restricted to the “female” athlete (and no doping allowed). Until a non-binary solution is developed for sports eligibility, this “Open” and “Female” system will ensure that any competitor with a novel identity claim (and there will be more) does not bring with him or her a competitive advantage.

(For reference, this solution is argued thoroughly in a recent paper published by the Macdonald Laurier Institute (MLI) in Canada).

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. avatar

    Spot on Swimming World. Once again, thank you for continuing the coverage of this story.

    • avatar


      • avatar

        Bio-female athletes don’t want to compete against bio-male athletes. Legit. Transgender female athletes just want to fit in, to belong and feel accepted. Also legit. It’s a moral and ethical dilemma that has no clear answer, especially from a kinesiologist who compares athletes with race cars.

    • avatar

      The crux of this entire issue:

      Woman is the specific word for a person who is female, an adult and human. Woman is a sex, not a gender (or identity).

      People use the term “gender” but what they are referring to is not gender at all but a persons subjective self-concept.

      Language and things have a gender; people have a sex (not a gender).

      • avatar
        Sue Larsen

        Please call the NCAA and voice your opinion in protest of transgender athletes competing in women’s sports. We must make our voices heard
        NCAA 1-317-917-6008.

    • avatar

      Where were all these critics when girls were taking spots on boys football, hockey, baseball, basketball, etc teams? If it was ok for girls to take spots on boys teams then surely it’s fair for boys to take spots on girls teams. Unless of course you’re a hypocrite.

      • avatar
        Jennifer Gingrich

        This take is ridiculous. MALES are the ones with huge, unfair physical advantages (larger hearts and lungs, more red blood cells, denser muscle fibers, less tilted femurs for running/pedaling speed, etc). Females are not.

        So male sports are under no threat from female athletes occasionally participating in them, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed by the fact that there has never been one single women in the NBA or NFL, both of which are open to women. Because women don’t have the physical advantages necessary to compete against men.

      • avatar

        Before puberty there is little difference in physical strength etc. , but after it is very different. The sexes then diverge in abilities so that males have greater strength, bigger lungs, stronger bones, greater muscular development, so it makes no sense to have males competing with females. That is why we have the male/ female divide in adult sport.

    • avatar


  2. avatar

    Great job Linda!

    • avatar

      Thank you, Stuart!

    • avatar
      Linda Blade

      Thank you, Stuart!

  3. avatar

    We’ll stated! It is not an identity issue, it’s a physical issue. This will end up having a negative impact on LGBTQ. LT seems too self absorbed to realize she may be hurting others.

    • avatar

      He does not get to use Women’s sexed pronouns.
      Lia is male, a man and how he presents is his choice.
      He does not have the right to demand and compel everyone else to follow his perception of himself.

      The NCAA maybe to blame for this debacle, but Lia himself has *chosen* to compete against Women knowing full well that he has a distinct advantage against them.

      He is a cheat and can take much of the blame as well.

      Too many regimes had people later saying “I was only doing as per the rules/as I was ordered”.

      History does not look kindly on such people

      • avatar

        It is pretty simple. We need a category for people with mental illness. They can compete however they want. Man, woman, dog, horse, whatever. It is simple. If you got a dick you ain’t a chick.

  4. avatar

    Great article, The solution is for men to stop excluding gender diverse males and for the men’s category to become an open category. NCAA and other sporting bodies should implement this solution now.

  5. avatar

    I agree wholeheartedly. It is ridiculous to label as transphobic and “mean” these foundational questions about fairness in sport as though the transgender athlete in question is the only one affected by them. We can and must find a solution that creates fairness FOR ALL.

    • avatar

      Where are the women!! Why aren’t you up in arms!!!!

      • avatar

        They are up in arms. Please keep up.

      • avatar

        Women have been campaigning against this for years. We are told to shut up by men, we are threatened with rape and violence. We are called Nazis, fascists, white supremacists and terfs. Many women campaigning need to maintain anonymity online. Women have been doxxed, photos of their homes and kids posted online. Many have had their employers contacted in an attempt to destroy their livelihoods. Sometimes this has succeeded. Female athletes have been threatened with deselection by their sporting bodies if they kick up a fuss. So don’t give me this “where are the women? Why aren’t they up in arms?” nonsense.

      • avatar

        Where were all these critics when girls were taking spots on boys football, hockey, baseball, basketball, etc teams? If it was ok for girls to take spots on boys teams then surely it’s fair for boys to take spots on girls teams. Unless of course you’re a hypocrite.

  6. avatar

    Great article, Linda!

    • avatar
      Coach Blade

      Thank you, Sheryl!

  7. avatar
    VJ Minerva

    Concise and very honest look at the current situation in women’s sports. Thank you Coach Blade for taking the time to write this.

    • avatar
      Coach Blade

      Thank you, VJ Minerva!

  8. avatar

    Incredible article and details, thank you for writing this and speaking up. And thank you to Swimming World for giving a platform for people to voice their perspectives. Keep it up!

    • avatar

      Transgender-related discussions often and mistakenly confuse and conflate biological sex, gender, sexual orientation and other forms of psycho- sociobiological identity and the result is mixed policies and the Penn mess. Thank you for being so succinct and correct in your use of language. I agree wholeheartedly… male sports should be accommodating XY transgender people , not female sports. I would like to know if else LT was making World record shattering times on the men’s team? Or did she achieve success only when joining the women’s team? That in itself is the crux of the matter.

      • avatar

        LT’s best times were published in an article I can’t find anymore, even though Google is supposed to be my friend. Anyway, as a male swimmer LT was mediocre.

    • avatar
      Coach Blade

      Thank you, Lee!

  9. avatar
    George Schmidt

    Very few people these days are transphobic, but let people identify as they wish, AS LONG AS IT DOESNT AFFECT OTHERS. The problem here is that it is harming and unfair to others for someone born male and infused with testosterone until after puberty to compete against females. The NCAA needs to change the rules to reflect that.

    • avatar
      Bill strong

      The women should refuse to swim with men who become women. You can butcher but you can’t mutate changing into the opposite sex is impossible two sexes. Lots of nuts

      • avatar

        Loss of nuts doesn’t make one female or a woman.

        Just makes a man a eunuch.

  10. avatar

    Thank you for speaking the truth and being factual and providing a solution. You summed it all perfectly.
    Thank you for defending women and women sports

    • avatar
      Coach Blade

      My pleasure, CM!

  11. avatar

    Lia is a MAN irrespective of his later gender change. For years he would have an unfair advantage of training with higher testosterone levels which allow for greater performance, athletic development and no subsequent suppression therapy will fix that. So let LT to enjoy the swimming but don’t allow him to compete in women’s sport.

    • avatar

      Just to make sure I understand your perspective fully, if you see two groups of people, and one, biologically on average exhibits physical traits that give potential competitive advantage in sports, those two groups must not be forced to compete against each other. Is this a correct breakdown of your views?

      If so, congratulations, you condemn Jackie Robinson for unfairly competing against competitively disadvantaged white players, who should not have been forced to compete against an individual from a group that on average has superior competitive advantages in sports. If you find yourself not actually supporting racial discrimination and segregation of sports, then welcome to the anti segregation side, glad you support allowing people to compete as they are, not segregated.

      • avatar
        Jennifer Gingrich


        Why do you believe that men and women have separate sports at all, then? That’s segregation, but it’s necessary in order for women to be able to compete in sports at all. Sports matter to women and girls, and we deserve a fair chance to compete and win.

        Why do you think there are no women in the NBA, NFL or in Major league baseball (all of which are in fact open to women)? Why do you think every single strength and speed record in athletic history has been held by a man? Do you think all the women just haven’t been trying hard enough all these centuries?

        Of course not. You know, as well as everyone else does, that women have separate sports from men because men have huge physical advantages (larger hearts & lungs, less tilted femurs that lessen resistance on their lower bodies, denser muscle fibers, more red blood cells, etc) that no woman can compete with.

        Using Jackie Robinson as an argument here is disingenuous, absurd and, frankly, pretty racist. Being black doesn’t come with an automatic athletic advantage over being white. Being male DOES come with physical advantages over being female.

      • avatar

        Please keep black people out your mouth.

        Women fought for single sex sports as part of equality. It’s entirely different.

      • avatar

        Ryan, and people like him, are morons. All they can do when faced with facts and reason is scream racism, sexism, transphobia, etc.

      • avatar

        Thank you, Coach Blade. Just because an action is within the bounds of the rules doesn’t make it fair or ethical.

        Transmen AND Transwomen should not both be competing on the women’s team. You can’t have it both ways. This alone should be a signal to the NCAA that something is really wrong with their policy.

        I agree w the Poster who said athletes should have the option to move to a more competitive category but never a less competitive one.

  12. avatar

    Thank you Swimming World for allowing the debate! Many publications shy away from confronting this topic for fear of the backlash.

    Indeed many of the co-competitors to Lia Thomas are scared to speak out because they have seen other female athletes get hung out to dry for having reasonable objections to this ideology. Some are speaking out anonymously.

    It’s a dangerous time to believe in the primacy of biology.

    • avatar

      The fact that Lia can freely speak, while his teammates can’t, speaks volumes.

  13. avatar

    Thank you for speaking the truth, Linda! No men in women’s sports. End of story.

  14. avatar

    Thank you Linda

    • avatar
      Coach Blade

      Thank you, KeninNZ!

  15. avatar
    Kristin Peterson


  16. avatar

    Thank you for standing up for women’s sports. Let our records stand.

  17. avatar

    Women, do not for one second tolerate this level of disrespect. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourselves and each other. The fact that everyone from sporting bodies to governments are so quick to accommodate the most unreasonable demands of activists no matter the cost to women means that (despite what the media wants you to believe) you are not the “privileged” ones here, not even close.

    The entire situation was summed up perfectly in this quote by a woman named Ruth Barrett:

    “Because I feel that I am a woman, therefore you must treat me as if I actually am, otherwise you are transphobic. As I insist on participating as a woman in your groups, gatherings, or spaces you also must forgo discussing anything about your female socialization, female anatomy, or female functions because it hurts my feelings. It hurts my feelings because I was neither socialized as a girl nor am I capable of experiencing what the female body experiences from cradle to grave. But if you speak about this I am then reminded that I am not female, and therefore not really a woman. My experience of feeling like a woman must not be invalidated by your experiences of being a woman, therefore I will shame you for being female, teach you in university to estrange your body from your mind, make your distinct physicality and oppression that is specific to your sex irrelevant in the laws of the land or anything that names our differences until there is only the mind. Now only how I think about your body is real. Mind over body. Mind over matter. Spirit over matter/mater/mother. A woman is anyone who says they are a woman. My word is now more real than your mitochondrial DNA. Accept that by my word, you really don’t exist.”

  18. avatar
    Jim H

    So true. They argue that it’s about fairness and inclusion, but are fine with turning a blind eye to the glaring physical differences.

    • avatar

      I agree

  19. avatar
    Brian J.

    I fail to understand what pride there can be in a transgender female winning against real women, whether for the swimmer, for the team, for the coach, or for the school. It’s seems like a very hollow victory.

    • avatar

      The Trans is validated by being included in women’s spaces. For many of them performing womanhood is a paraphilia – sexual fetish.

      As for the Coach and School, some people only care about winning and they don’t care how.

      • avatar

        >For many of them performing womanhood is a >paraphilia – sexual fetish.

        This is true. Not for all, but for many. It is an inconvenient fact that many in the media would like to suppress.

    • avatar

      He is not a transgender female. He is a transgender MALE performing (offensively) as “female” He is not female, not a woman. Can never be, never was.

  20. avatar

    Wonderful opinion. The line between male and female chromosomes and sex hormones is easy to define for all but a few intersex humans. The people who want to imagine that we can all just change all of that are science deniers. Let’s continue to strive for fairness in sport.

  21. avatar

    Well put, Linda! Great way to put up the facts and fight for these women. I pray that it’s taken more seriously.

    • avatar
      Coach Blade

      Love you, Bree!

  22. avatar

    It surprises me that no one ever comments on the XY advantage of height, wingspan and foot size. No amount of testosterone suppression will erase that.
    Open category vs XX would be a fair solution.
    That said, if someone does identify a certain way- God bless. Just as long as your rights aren’t usurping someone else’s.

  23. avatar

    It’s wonderful to realize who you are.
    It’s not fair to implicate innocent people.
    Be happy in your resolve.

  24. avatar
    Jennifer Gingrich

    Perfectly laid-out argument for why it’s so unfair for biological males like Lia to compete in women’s sports. Women fought for decades to get equal opportunities in our own sports, and now are being shoved off teams and podiums by males with huge and insurmountable physical advantages. It’s simply absurd that this is viewed by anyone as ‘progressive’.

  25. avatar
    J Chesman

    The problem with trans women athletes such as Lia Thomas competing in as a woman in women’s sports against women is as simple as it is insurmountable, and that is that it is anti-feminist and undermines the great strides made by all women and women athletes in particular since the advent of the women’s rights movement and Title 9.

    Period. Full stop.

    Ask yourself, are men currently or will they ever in the future have to deal with trans men competing in and potentially dominating men’s sports? Will we as a society ever have to struggle with the question of “biological women” taking podium positions from men, or spots on teams from men or breaking records formerly held by “biological” men”?

    Of course not.

    So asking women to stand in silence and simply accept it while all of the above is happening to them in sports that they have fought and struggled for half a century just to have the chance to compete that every biological male takes as a birthright in this country is to me the height of anti-feminism.

    All of these women are being asked to give up a piece of what they have worked their whole lives for to accommodate a person who was born male and who has the frame, musculature, and lung capacity of the man that they formerly competed as.

    It’s not fair and it is only happening to women. It’s not right and if fixing it means creating “trans women’s” or “trans men’s” categories and events in order to provide fair and equitable access to competition for everyone then so be it. But asking women alone to shoulder this burden is neither fair nor equitable.

    • avatar
      Jenny Morris

      Well said Linda! Males, of any identity,
      do not belong in women’s sports.

  26. avatar
    Middle aged man

    I love the idea of Open vs XX. Other sports have a precedent for this, categories include sex, weight, age and skill level. Competitors can choose to participate in more competitive categories , but not less competitive categories.

    I find it absurd, and the ultimate act of privilege within the patriarchy that a man performing as a woman can decide he wants to compete against women, and is allowed to do so. Sports are a zero sum game. Every man playing women’s sports takes a woman’s space, opportunity, and experience.

    If LT stayed on the men’s team after hormones, he would likely never win again… ironically, that is the same demoralizing and unfair position he puts all the women in when he swims against them… the only difference is the women currently have no choice or voice on the matter.

  27. avatar

    Consider the source. From Wikipedia:

    “The social democratic Broadbent Institute referred to the MacDonald-Laurier Institute as a “right-wing charity” in a 2018 article[13] and MLI was described as similarly minded to the Fraser Institute in a 2012 article by the right-leaning National Post.[14]”

  28. avatar

    Well we can follow rules, we can also ask ourselves as an individual are our own actions are fair on others? I have little sympathy for Lia in this regard. I believe a person knows when they have an unfair advantage over others and should do the right thing..and in this case, that is not compete.

  29. avatar

    You’d think that a magnanimous gesture on the part of the athlete involved, such as declining awards, records, etc.; yet still participating for the Love of the Sport, and so accruing whatever friendships, team spirit, self esteem, etc. in that process would be sufficient…. Or is WINNING EVERYTHING? Perhaps asterisks could be inserted alongside notable performances; indicating competitor had webbed toes, or was raised by dolphins, or bitten by a sea snake, or…?

  30. avatar
    John Toth

    Very sound article Linda. I cannot agree more, women who have fought hard through title 9 to open up
    fair and equitable competition now look in stunned disbelief to see these advancements usurped by a vocal minority. You cannot equivocate biological sex.

  31. avatar

    Within a decade there will be no biological females placing in the top three of any sport. Former men will dominate, and leave women wondering how they surrendered their hard earned Title IX rights.

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