Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Posts Record Time to Win Women's Title
University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas set a new pool record Thursday as he won the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the Ivy League Championships.
Thomas, who swam competitively for three years as a man before deciding that he wanted to compete as a woman, had a time of 4 minutes, 37:32 seconds, which is the fastest ever recorded in the women’s event at Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Catherine Buroker, a Penn sophomore, was second. Defending Ivy League champ Ellie Marquardt, a Princeton, sophomore, finished in third.
Congratulations to Catherine Buroker, who might have come second in this race, but as she lost to trans woman Lia Thomas (born a man) Catherine is the real winner here ???♀️ https://t.co/TgnPDn4mML
— Martin Daubney ✌??? (@MartinDaubney) February 18, 2022
Thomas was likely to win more events in the Ivy League championships, being favored in the 200-yard, 500-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle events.
He has dominated most of the events in which he has competed, drawing howls of protest from some of his teammates, their parents and others who believe he has an unfair biological advantage.
The NCAA has declined to change its rule on transgender swimmers, which has allowed Thomas to keep competing against women and will allow him to go to the NCAA championships.
The protests against the inclusion of Lia Thomas in the Ivy League Swimming Championships have nothing to do with transphobia and everything to do with fairness in a female competition.@PennSwimDive @iChampionWomen @IvyLeague
— Michele Greenfield (@Micheleg1999) February 17, 2022
Lia Thomas is a biological male swimming against biological females. Whether she identifies as a girl is irrelevant to the fact that she was born a male, went through puberty as a male, and swam on the mens team for 3 years. Protect women’s sports.
— Colleen Young (@_CRYoung) January 21, 2022
500 free final @IvyLeague championships: Lia Thomas, formerly of the @PennSwimDive men’s team, won by over 7 seconds. You can hardly see the other women swimming at the far end of the pool by the time the race is over. For the women, “it was a race for second place.” pic.twitter.com/3ItZnsGMtR
— Emily Kreps (@ekreps) February 18, 2022
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former swimming Olympic gold medalist and president of the advocacy group Champion Women, said Thomas has an unfair advantage.
“If a cis woman gets caught taking testosterone twice, she’s banned for life, whereas Lia has had 10 years of testosterone,” she said, according to The New York Times.
Hogshead-Makar said there is nothing wrong with having Thomas compete as a woman, but his times should not count in women’s competitions.
“It’s about the principle of having sport continue to be sex-segregated: having a space where women are really honored and where they can triumph,” she said.
Last month, 16 members of the Penn swim team said in a letter that Penn’s support of Thomas has been unfair to them.
“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 The Washington Post. “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.”
“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 swimmers wrote.
“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.
Lia Thomas will always dominate in the pool because biological males have a scientific advantage over female athletes. We must #SaveWomensSports by acknowledging these biological differences. https://t.co/KRknKQq3e2
— Independent Women’s Voice (@IWV) February 18, 2022
The letter noted that swimmers have been told that speaking out could get them booted from the team “or that we would never get a job offer,” according to SwimSwam.
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