A University of Pennsylvania swimmer who swam for the men’s team for three years now, after becoming transgender, is dominating women’s competitions and is leading his team to win every competition, sparking controversy again.
Athlete Will Thomas, who now identifies as transgender and goes by the name Lia Thomas, competed as a man for the University of Pennsylvania until his junior year as a student at the institution. Then, after taking a year off to ‘gender transition,’ he resumed swimming competitions, but for the women’s team.
Recently, during a competition with Cornell and Princeton Universities held on Nov. 20, Thomas ‘swept’ the leaderboards and swam new record scores in the 200-meter freestyle and 500-meter freestyle that surpassed almost any female swimmer in the U.S. In addition, she was a key part of her team’s success in the 400 free relay, where they earned the best results for the University of Pennsylvania.
Swim Swam, a news organization that covers competitive swimming, reported on its page, “Only half a second off the NCAA A cut, it is the second-fastest women’s 200 free time in the nation so far this season, and it would have scored in the A final at 2021 NCAA Championships.”
He further added that “Thomas closed out the day” with the 400 free relay for Penn State, making her a crucial part of her team’s success. “Penn women broke pool records in the 200 free, 500 free, 1000 free, 100 breast, and 400 free,” Swim Swam wrote.
Thomas previously told Penn Today that “being trans has not affected my ability to play the sport and being able to continue is very rewarding.”
This situation, which poses a clear disadvantage to women’s competitive sport, has reignited the debate over whether trans people should be allowed to compete in sports alongside female athletes.
As reported by the Daily Mail, the NCAA rules regarding the participation of a transgender student in athletic competition state that for a man to compete on a women’s team, he must undergo at least one year of treatment to suppress the male hormone testosterone.
Thomas completed the treatment during the 2020-21 season after finishing his competitions as a man. He dedicated that year to hormone suppression treatments.
Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee policy further specifies that an athlete who has declared his gender identity to be female cannot change it for sporting purposes for a minimum of four years. He also must demonstrate that his total testosterone level is below a specified measurement for at least 12 months before his first competition.
Linda Blade, a sports performance professional, former Canadian heptathlon champion, and president of Athletics Alberta, reacted in a tweet 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.
In June of this year, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning transgender women from playing on women’s public school teams. He stressed it was necessary to ensure equity 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,” the Republican governor said.
A report conducted by Britain’s Athletic Equality Grouping (SCEG), which aims to ensure safety and equity in sports, stated, “For many sports, the inclusion of transgender people, fairness and safety cannot co-exist in a single competitive model.”
The report added that “decisions must be made about transgender athletes, so it posits as a possible solution the creation of separate ‘open’ and ‘women’s’ categories to make sure no one is left out.”