Protection file

Protecting women’s sport at the heart of Lia Thomas’ situation

Protecting women’s sport at the heart of Lia Thomas’ situation

The word bigot was launched. Was charged with transphobia. Said to be heartless. The list goes on, lots of insults or attacks inappropriate for printing. It comes with journalistic territory, especially when a controversial topic is brought up, and in these times of harshness, it’s typical to hide behind an anonymous social media account.

There were also many comments and emails of support, from people appreciating that a controversial topic had been raised, and a position was taken on an issue that could have a serious impact on sport not only now, but in the future.

Lia thomas

Here’s the trick: the Lia thomas the controversy isn’t going away anytime soon, and Swimming World – and myself as editor – won’t hesitate to keep covering. We will document the impact of the scenario on the swimming pool and the potential influence it will have on the world of sport as a whole. We will focus on the uneven playing field facing organic female athletes. And… AND… we will discuss solutions to ensure that Thomas is offered some form of inclusiveness.

Laziness, ignorance or agenda-driven positioning – in some cases – attempted to turn Lia Thomas’ situation into transgender. Since coverage of her situation began earlier this month, that has never been the case. It’s great that Thomas has found her identity as a woman and a swimmer, and wants to continue her swimming career. From the start, this question revolved around one thing – fairness protection for organic female athletes and female sports.

By now, the story of the Thomas saga is well known. If a quick rehash is needed, let’s go. Thomas is a transgender woman who competed for three years as a member of the University of Pennsylvania Men’s Program. Following hormone-suppressing therapy, which meets current NCAA requirements, Thomas – this year – began competing as a member of Penn’s Women’s Program.

At the start of the season, Thomas achieved impressive times which suggest she will defy U.S. records of Miss franklin (200 freestyle) and Katie Ledecky (500 freestyle) at the NCAA Championships. Thomas’ male puberty advantage has clearly not been toned down, even after she has complied with the NCAA standard, and her presence in a female sport is totally unfair to the biological women she is against. will run.

So, again, we stress that the issue at hand is not transgender. It is about giving the opportunity to thousands of female athletes – in the present and the future – to know that they will participate in the competition with equal chances of success, without already being faced with a scenario in which they are outmatched or in which an opponent’s arsenal is much more powerful.

Petra schneider

Petra Schneider. Courtesy of Rob Bogaerts / Anefo

I wrote in a previous column that Thomas’ presence in the water is akin to that of former women on the world stage (especially at the Olympics and world championships) facing off against doped athletes from Germany from East and China. Whether delivered through a syringe or through male puberty, how powerful is a testosterone boost? Consider: The world record of 4: 36.29 produced by East Germany Petra schneider in the 400-meter individual medley at the 1980 Moscow Olympics (which the United States boycotted) would have been good for sixth place at last summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.

Sixth place. Forty-one years later. And in a wetsuit and pool severely deficient compared to today’s equipment and facilities.

No, Thomas doesn’t take drugs. It is not doing anything illegal, which was not the case during the days of East Germany’s systematic doping program or the operation that turned China from an equally ruled nation. in the pool to a superpower at the 1994 World Championships. On the contrary, Thomas takes advantage of the EFFECTS years of testosterone production and two years of hormone-suppressing therapy do little to diminish the advantage gained by male puberty.

In a recent detailed study editorial for the Daily Mail, and reprinted by Swimming World with her permission, Olympic champion and advocate of women’s sport Nancy Hogshead-Makar discussed Thomas’ race issues against biological women. On several occasions, Hogshead-Makar has noted the struggle of women – for years – to gain a par with men’s sports. Her arguments, in part, highlight the constant and instant approach of dismissing equity issues in women’s sport with little thought.

The past and present are filled with examples where women’s sports are seen as nothing more than the middle class. A high school football stadium in need of a new artificial turf? Okay, just postpone the redevelopment of the girls’ soccer field. What do you think of the new dashboard in the boys’ gym? I do not know. What do you think of the flip-cards showing the score of the field hockey game? These are examples that hold the truth for most female athletes.

Hell, in the bubbles of last year’s NCAA basketball tournaments, the unequal treatment of men’s and women’s sports was fully visible. Remember the fully equipped weight training facility for guys? It was great. Remember what the women received? Nothing more than a barbell rack. It was pathetic and only underscored the uphill battle facing women and women’s athletics.

So, in Thomas’ case, why should the NCAA’s decision to grant him participation in a women’s sport be deemed acceptable? Its benefit bolstered by years of testosterone production has not been diminished. But instead of exercising due diligence on the science, the NCAA has developed a one-year hormone suppression requirement for transgender women that falls far short of what is necessary for fairness. Basically, the governing body took a dismissive approach, similar to, “This should be okay. These are only women’s sports.


Courtesy of NCAA Media

Non, it is not OK. It is not good for women. It’s not ok for women’s athletics. It’s not good for my three daughters. It is not ok for Emma Nordin and Brooke Forde, Arizona State and Stanford University, respectively, who are the main contenders for the 500 freestyle title at the NCAA Championships in March, and who may have to compete for Thomas for that crown. It’s not okay for Thomas, who is also in a no-win situation.

As part of her role in the Women’s Sport Policy Working Group, Hogshead-Makar makes a key point: “The WSPWG believes that all transgender girl / female athletes should be welcome in female / female sports, but with separate scores, compensations or events. for those who have not sufficiently mitigated their male performance benefits related to sex. “

Lia Thomas deserves a solution, and while this may not be a race against biological women behind the strength of what her body once produced, an answer must be found. A time trial or an exhibition swim? Adding a new ranking? For the sake of inclusiveness and to ensure fair competition, the answer must come soon.

It is essential that trans athletes find a welcoming environment in our sport, but this cannot be done without ensuring a level playing field for biological women. Until then, women’s sports must be protected and it must be understood that Lia Thomas’ situation is not a transgender issue. It is about fairness and equal opportunity. Clear and simple.


Here are links to other articles from Swimming World related to the Lia Thomas controversy:

Penn’s transgender swimmer Lia Thomas swims the fastest times in the country; Controversy rages on

In the debate on Lia Thomas, there is an urgent need for civil speech and humanity

Allowing Lia Thomas to compete in NCAA Championships would set an unfair framework

Penn Swimming parents write letter to NCAA against Lia Thomas’ participation in women’s events

The Potential Impact of Transgender Swimmers Beyond NCAA Competition

Debate Lia Thomas: Working Group on Women’s Sport Policy Focused on the Protection of Women’s Sport

Without NCAA action, the effects of Lia Thomas’ situation are akin to doping

Penn’s parents voice concerns over Lia Thomas’ competition on the women’s team

American swimming official resigns in protest over Lia Thomas situation

Olympic champion and women’s sports advocate Nancy Hogshead-Makar details the problems in Lia Thomas’ situation