Fury over ‘unfair’ competition as trans swimmer is now smashing women’s records


A trans swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, who previously spent three years competing in men’s competitions is now breaking records in women’s events.

Lia Thomas, formerly named Will, has competed in a number of events recently, as she attended a tri-meet with Cornell and Princeton universities on November 20.

She ‘blasted’ University of Pennsylvania records in the 200m freestyle and 500m freestyle at the event – posting times that beat almost any other female swimmers across America.

And with a time of 1:43:47 in the 200m freestyle, Thomas would have been in line to secure a silver medal at the NCAA Women’s Championships, while her 4:35:06 in the 500m freestyle would have been good enough to win bronze. 

This is the latest controversy in the ongoing argument over whether trans people should be allowed to compete in sports alongside athletes of the opposite gender than they were assigned at birth.    

Lia’s success at the event held last weekend has reignited the debate, as she was a key component in her team’s success in the 400 free relay, and she swept the board when it came to 100m, 200m and 500m free individual events. 

Previously, Thomas (pictured before transitioning) competed for Pennsylvania's men's swimming team, competing for three years before having a year off as a result of the Covid pandemic - with her last event for the men's team coming on November 16, 2019

Previously, Thomas (pictured before transitioning) competed for Pennsylvania’s men’s swimming team, competing for three years before having a year off as a result of the Covid pandemic – with her last event for the men’s team coming on November 16, 2019

Previously, Thomas competed for Pennsylvania’s men’s swimming team, competing for three years before having a year off as a result of the Covid pandemic – with her last event for the men’s team coming on November 16, 2019, according to University of Pennsylvania records.

Speaking previously about her ability to continue competing as a trans athlete, Lia said: ‘Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding.’ 

According to the NCAA Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation, a trans female must have undergone at least one year of testosterone suppression treatment before being eligible to compete on a women’s team.

The rules state: ‘A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.’

The guidelines also make clear that: ‘A trans female (MTF) transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.’

In addition, if a sports team has been classified as a mixed team as a result of the inclusion of a trans woman who has undergone none or less than one year of testosterone suppression treatment, this classification remains in place for the remainder of the academic year ‘without exception’. 

A number of people voiced their anger at Thomas being allowed to compete in women's swimming competitions

A number of people voiced their anger at Thomas being allowed to compete in women’s swimming competitions

Despite these rules, some have voiced their anger over Thomas’ recent success in the women’s events. 

Sport performance coach Linda Blade responded to Thomas’ most recent event by saying: ‘Well of course women’s records are being smashed! Lia competed as male for first three years in #NCAA. This is not right! 

‘We need to return to #SexBasedSports! #SexNotGender to preserve fairness for female athletes.’

One person said: ‘How many people were involved in this swim meet and not one of them stood up and said this is wrong?’ 

Though the bitter response to Thomas' recent success wasn't universal, with some congratulating the student athlete, and one person even pointing out how her results proved she wasn't 'dominating' the sport

Though the bitter response to Thomas’ recent success wasn’t universal, with some congratulating the student athlete, and one person even pointing out how her results proved she wasn’t ‘dominating’ the sport

While a third said: ‘How can anybody look at that and say that it is fair for Lia Thomas to swim against women?’

However, criticism was not universal, with sport inclusivity educator Kirsti Miller sharing a number of women’s swimming records and comparing them to Thomas’ best results.

She claimed that the fact Thomas was behind in all the records meant that she was in no way ‘dominating’ women’s swimming. 

While former swim coach Emma McGee voiced her support for Lia, saying: ‘Since no one else is saying it- congrats to her!’

Earlier this year, Olympic officials announced that rules for allowing transgender athletes to participate in women’s competitions will be changed.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said earlier this year they will be setting out a new policy for participation of transgender women in Olympic sports.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year barring transgender females from playing on Florida public school teams intended for student athletes born as girls

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year barring transgender females from playing on Florida public school teams intended for student athletes born as girls

Officials say the current guidelines, set in 2015, are not fit for purpose and should be adapted to catch-up with advancements in science and testing.

A push towards each individual sport setting their own rules is one of the likely outcomes – in a bid to move away from the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

And according to The Guardian, the new guidelines will suggest that trans women should no longer be required to reduce their testosterone levels to compete. 

And in a reversal of the IOC’s previous stance, the new guidelines, set to be rolled out after the Beijing Winter Olympics, say that there should be no presumption that trans women have an automatic advantage over other women.

Despite this, the IOC will still permit individual sporting associations to dictate their own rules on trans athletes.  

It came after weightlifter Laurel Hubbard made history by becoming the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is set to change its guidelines on trans athletes to say that trans women should no longer be required to reduce their testosterone levels to compete

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is set to change its guidelines on trans athletes to say that trans women should no longer be required to reduce their testosterone levels to compete

But the New Zealander’s Olympic debut – which sparked much debate prior to the games – was not a fruitful one.

Hubbard, 43, who transitioned in 2012, crashed out of the women’s +87kg weightlifting competition without registering a lift. 

In October, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that bans athletes in public schools from competing alongside the gender with which they identify, mandating that they must compete as the sex listed on their birth certificate.

Texas became the sixth state to enact such restrictions by signing the bill on October 25, with proponents saying the bill, named HB-25, will ‘protect girls’, while critics have branded it a ‘cruel’ and ‘discriminatory’ measure that further ‘stigmatizes’ trans athletes.

The bill, which becomes law in January, overrides a previous provision to state law that allowed trans students to get a court order permitting them to compete as the gender with which they identify with the help of an amended birth certificate.

Transgender athletes in Texas must compete as their assigned sex at birth according to a law Governor Greg Abbott (pictured) signed in October

Transgender athletes in Texas must compete as their assigned sex at birth according to a law Governor Greg Abbott (pictured) signed in October

However, trans athletes in Texas were already barred from vying in state competition under guidelines from its University Interscholastic League, which governs high school sports.

The new law was passed 76-61 in the House of Representatives and a 19-12 vote in the Senate before reaching Abbott, who declined to publicly comment on the bill while signing it.

And in June this year, Florida’s Republican governor signed a bill barring transgender females from playing on public school teams intended for student athletes born as girls, plunging the state into the national culture war over transgender rights.

‘In Florida, girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports,’ Governor Ron DeSantis said as he signed the bill into law at a Christian academy in Jacksonville. ‘We’re going to make sure that that’s the reality.’

What do the rules say? 

According to the NCAA Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation, a trans female must have undergone at least one year of testosterone suppression treatment before being eligible to compete on a women’s team.

The rules state: ‘A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.’

The guidelines also make clear that: ‘A trans female (MTF) transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.’

In addition, if a sports team has been classified as a mixed team as a result of the inclusion of a trans woman who has undergone none or less than one year of testosterone suppression treatment, this classification remains in place for the remainder of the academic year ‘without exception’.

The law, sure to face court challenges, inflames an already contentious discussion unfolding nationally as Republican-controlled states move to limit the rights of LGBTQ people. It also could impose severe financial consequences on Florida.

Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia have already passed similar legislation and South Dakota’s governor has signed an executive order supporting a sports ban. All have Republican governors.

Supporters of the sports bills say they are needed to preserve fairness, asserting that biologically born women and girls would be at a disadvantage against transgender athletes who were born as male but have since transitioned to female.

DeSantis signed the bill flanked by several teenage women athletes. He said the law was needed to ensure fairness for women participating in sports across the state.

‘We are going to go based off biology, not based off ideology when we are doing sports,’ he said.

The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group, said it would challenge the Florida law in court as having been based on a ‘false, discriminatory premise’ that threatened the wellbeing of transgender children.

‘Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team,’ Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement.

Elsewhere, former Olympic gold medal winner Caitlyn Jenner waded into the controversy, back in May this year, saying she opposes trans women competing in female sports.

Jenner, who was one of the US’s most successful athletes in the decathlon during the 1970s and won gold in the Montreal Olympics in 1976, announced that she was a trans woman back in 2015.

When asked about her thoughts on trans women competing in sports with other women, Jenner said: ‘This is a question of fairness. That’s why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.’ 



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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