Members of the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team backed the U.S. federation’s decision on Thursday to toughen its rules for transgender athletes, with some students believing one of the club’s swimmers, Lia Thomas, was being unfairly advantaged because born a man.
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The rules enacted by USA Swimming – medical examinations analyzing in particular the testosterone level – could block the way for the swimmer of the next competitions. A meeting of the Ivy League, which brings together the most prestigious American universities, is scheduled for February, and the national university championships (NCAA) in March.
‘We ask that (the university) and the Ivy League support us as biological women and not take legal action with the NCAA to challenge’ the new rules, 16 team members say in letter published by Swimming World magazine.
While “fully supporting” Lia Thomas who has “total right to live her life authentically,” the signatories believe that “in athletic competitions, biological sex is a different issue than gender identity.”
Lia Thomas, who began her transition in May 2019 with hormone treatment, “has an unfair advantage in women’s competitions”, they add, recalling that the swimmer was ranked 462nd in men before being N.1 in women’s women.
While only 18 of the club’s 40 athletes will qualify for the Ivy League, Lia Thomas, according to these swimmers, enjoys “the advantages of strength, size and lung capacity that only come with male puberty”.
Among the signatories are swimmers who do not qualify for the Ivy League or compete in the same disciplines.
All of them, on the other hand, say they have “the feeling that the university, our school, our championship and the NCAA did not support us”.
The swimmers also say they were threatened with expulsion from the club if they challenged the qualification of Lia Thomas and were forbidden to speak to the media.
Other team members had previously supported the young transgender swimmer.
The controversy around the very good results of Lia Thomas, 22 years old and arrived this season in the women’s category after having competed in the boys’ competition, once again raises the delicate question of the place of these athletes, between concern for inclusion and protection of the environment. sports fairness.
She also took a political turn. Several conservative states have recently passed legislation to bar young transgender girls from women’s sports in school.