Lia Thomas — a biological male who identifies as female — is favored to win a pair of women's swimming events at the NCAA Championships this week.
What are the details?
The transgender University of Pennsylvania athlete has been at the center of controversy for the last several months in regard to biologically male athletes who identify as females competing against biological women.
Thomas, 22, set several records at the Ivy League Championships last month with victories in the 100, 200, and 500-yard freestyle women's events, Fox News said. In fact, Thomas finished a whopping seven seconds ahead of the second-place swimmer in the 500 freestyle:
Thomas also is favored to win the 200 women's freestyle at the NCAAs, Fox News said, adding that Thomas also may upset in the 100 freestyle as the the 10th-seeded swimmer.
The NCAA updated its transgender policy in January, deferring to guidance in each sport’s governing body, Fox News said. USA Swimming updated its policy shortly after requiring transgender athletes competing at an elite level to show testosterone levels equating to half of what Thomas was allowed to compete with for at least 36 months before being eligible, the cable network added. However, the NCAA decided weeks later that it wouldn’t alter its testosterone guidance, stating that "implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in 2022 NCAA women's swimming championships," Fox News said.
A mixture of outrage and support has followed Thomas ever since the swimmer began making headlines several months ago:
- In December a biological female swimmer on the Penn squad spoke out against Thomas being allowed to compete with them, saying "I think secretly everyone just knows it’s the wrong thing to do." Soon a second swimmer acknowledged that the entire team is "angry" over the unfair situation.
- A female Penn swimmer in January said women's swim team members were uncomfortable with Thomas in the locker room, saying "it's definitely awkward because Lia still has male body parts."
- What's more, the Penn women swimmers reportedly wanted to boycott a Jan. 8 meet over the Thomas situation but didn't as they were "afraid to be perceived as transphobic."
- If that weren't enough, a Penn female swimmer said Thomas identifies with a legendary baseball player who broke the major league's infamous color barrier: "She compares herself to Jackie Robinson. She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports."
- However, both Penn and the Ivy League issued statements supporting the inclusion of Thomas in women's competitions.
- Thomas' response to all this was summed up in quotes to Sports Illustrated earlier this month: "The very simple answer is that I’m not a man. I'm a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets."
The women's NCAA swimming championship events begin Wednesday. Here's the schedule for individual events in which Thomas is competing:
- 500-yard freestyle (preliminary, 10 a.m. Thursday; finals 6 p.m. Thursday)
- 200-yard freestyle (preliminary, 10 a.m. Friday; finals 6 p.m. Friday)
- 100-yard freestyle (preliminary, 10 a.m. Saturday; finals 6 p.m. Saturday)