A group of female swimmers at the University of Pennsylvania has asked that the college follow new NCAA rules that could mean transgender swimmer Lia Thomas no longer would be able to compete against women.
The letter from 16 swimmers was made public Thursday.
“We fully support Lia Thomas in her decision to affirm her gender identity and to transition from a man to a woman. Lia has every right to live her life authentically,” the letter read, according to Swimming World.
“However, we also recognize that when it comes to sports competition, that the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity,” the letter said.
“Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female. If she were to be eligible to compete against us, she could now break Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete,” the letter said.
The letter was not signed but was released by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a 1984 Olympic swimming gold medalist and chief executive of the women’s sports advocacy organization Champion Women.
The swimmers explained their anonymity in the letter, saying, “We have been told that if we spoke out against her inclusion into women’s competitions, that we would be removed from the team or that we would never get a job offer.”
The letter said giving Thomas a chance to do what he wants means a female swimmer loses out.
“The Penn Women’s Swimming Team has over 40 women, but only 18 of us are chosen to compete in the end-of-year culmination of our work: the Ivy Championships,” the letter said
“Most important to us is that Lia’s inclusion with unfair biological advantages means that we have lost competitive opportunities. Some of us have lost records. But even those that swim different events than Lia or were not in contention to make the Ivy Championships, we stand by our teammates who have lost out. It has often felt like Penn, our school, our league, and the NCAA did not support us.”
The letter said doing right for Thomas should mean committing a wrong for everyone else.
“Lia’s wins, records, and honors should not come at our expense, the women who have worked their entire lives to earn a spot on the Penn Women’s Swimming Team,” the letter said.
The NCAA said last month that it wanted the governing body of each sport to draft transgender competition rules, according to The Washington Post. USA Swimming released its Athlete Inclusion, Competitive Equity and Eligibility Policy this week.
The Penn swimmers want the college and Ivy League to abide by those rules and not challenge them on behalf of Thomas.
“In particular, we appreciate USAS Guideline’s guiding purpose, to ensure that transgender women competing in the Female competition category ‘do not have an unfair advantage over their cisgender Female competitors in Elite Events,'” the letter said.
Penn officials have said they stand by Thomas.
The Ivy League Championships will be held Feb. 16-19, and the NCAA Championships take place March 16-19.
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