Swimming legend Michael Phelps addressed the controversy surrounding transgender swimmer Lia Thomas last week and expressed the importance of fair competition.
Thomas — a University of Pennsylvania swimmer who was born a biological male and competed as a male swimmer for most of her life — has dominated female competition in recent months.
Although Thomas took one year of testosterone suppression treatment in compliance with NCAA rules, critics believe that Thomas has an unfair competitive advantage. After all, Thomas was a highly competitive swimmer when competing as a male, even earning second-team All-Ivy League honors during the 2018-2019 swimming season.
What did Phelps say?
Speaking with CNN host Christiane Amanpour, Phelps said that sports must "be played on an even playing field," something critics of Thomas say is not possible when a biological male completes against biological females.
"Look, like, I will say — I can talk from a standpoint of doping. I don't think I have competed in a clean field in my entire career," Phelps said. "So, I think this leads back to the organizing committees again, because it has to be a level playing field."
"I think that's something that we all need, because it's — like, that's what sports are," Phelps continued. "And, for me, I don't know where this is going to go. I don't know what's going to happen. I believe that we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin. But I think sports should all be played on an even playing field. I don't know what that looks like in the future. But it's hard."
Phelps, a 23-time Olympic gold medalist, described the situation as "very complicated" but emphasized fairness in sports competition.
"This has been my sport my whole entire career. And I — honestly, the one thing I would love is everybody to be able to compete on an even playing field. That's all I can say," Phelps said.
Thomas made headlines again last week after she allegedly compared herself to Jackie Robinson.
"She compares herself to Jackie Robinson. She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports," one of Thomas’ teammates told the Washington Examiner.
"She laughs about it and mocks the situation. Instead of caring or showing that she cares about what she’s doing or what she’s doing to her teammates, she’s not sympathetic or empathetic at all," the teammate added. "Lia never addressed our team. She never asked if it was OK. She never asked how we felt. She never tried to explain how she feels. She never has said anything to us as a group. She never addressed anything."