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Penn female swimmers speak out against trans-identified teammate breaking women's records

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Female swimmers at a prestigious Ivy League school are warning that their biologically male teammate’s continued participation in women’s swimming competitions could result in the athlete’s performances surpassing records set by decorated female Olympic athletes.

Swimmers at the University of Pennsylvania have spoken anonymously with the sports website OutKick, expressing concern about their biologically male teammate, who identifies as Lia Thomas. 

Thomas made headlines recently after breaking multiple female swimming records after previously competing as a male swimmer for three seasons. The swimmers’ interviews with OutKick came after Thomas completed the 200-yard freestyle at the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio, faster than any other swimmer in the competition’s history earlier this month.

One of the swimmers, who spoke anonymously due to fear of retaliation from potential employers for sharing “her honest opinion about a transgender teammate,” alleged that “[p]retty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this.”

“Our coach [Mike Schnur] just really likes winning,” adding, “he’s like most coaches.” 

“I think secretly everyone just knows it’s the wrong thing to do,” she added. “When the whole team is together, we have to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, go, Lia, that’s great, you’re amazing.’ It’s very fake.”

Thomas’ teammate pushed back on the policy of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, one of the governing organizations that oversees collegiate sports in the United States, regarding trans-identified athletes.

Specifically, the NCAA allows “a trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication” to compete on women’s sports teams after “completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.”

“One year doesn’t mean anything,” the female athlete declared. “What about the years of puberty as a male, the male growth you went through as a man?”

So far, Thomas’ best times as a female swimmer are still slower than the best times achieved by the athlete when competing as Will Thomas on the Penn men’s team.

The teammate warned that Thomas continuing to break records and the possibility of matching previous times when competing as a male swimmer could have implications for women’s swimming that goes far beyond collegiate athletics.

“On paper, if Lia Thomas goes back to Will Thomas’ best times, those numbers are female world records. Faster than all the times [Olympic medalist] Katie Ledecky went in college. Faster than any Olympian you can think of. His times in three events are [female] world records.”

Noting that “the Ivy League is not a fast league for swimming,” Thomas’ teammate described the idea that Penn “could have an NCAA champion” as “particularly ridiculous.”

Currently, the NCAA records for female swimming are six seconds slower than Thomas’ best performance as a male in the 500-yard freestyle and nine seconds slower than Thomas’ best performance as a male in the 1650-yard freestyle. Ledecky currently holds both of the records mentioned above.

“There are a bunch of comments about the internet about how, ‘Oh, these girls are just letting this happen. They should just boycott or protest,’” Thomas’ teammate reported. “At the end of the day, it’s an individual sport. If we protest it, we’re only hurting ourselves because we’re going to miss out on all that we’ve been working for.”

Another one of Thomas’ teammates also spoke to OutKick anonymously in an interview published late last week, citing a similar fear of retribution as the first swimmer who came forward.

She told the sports website about the negative climate on the Penn swim team stemming from their inability to match Thomas’ performance. 

“They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put into it, they’re going to lose,” she stated. “Usually, they can get behind the blocks and know they out-trained all their competitors, and they’re going to win and give it all they’ve got.”

“Now they’re having to go behind the blocks knowing no matter what, they do not have the chance to win,” the second anonymous teammate added. “I think that it’s really getting to everyone.”

The second athlete maintained that “usually everyone claps, everyone is yelling and cheering when someone wins in a race.” But when Thomas broke records at the Zippy Invitational, she said there was silence.

By contrast, “the crowd erupted in applause” when a female Penn swimmer came in second place. The second athlete OutKick spoke with remarked that Thomas’ record-breaking performances are not lost on the swimmer, alleging that her teammate has bragged, “That was so easy, I was cruising” and boasted about achieving the title of “No. 1 in the country.”

“Well, obviously, she’s No. 1 in the country because she’s at a clear physical advantage after having gone through male puberty and getting to train with testosterone for years,” the second athlete lamented. “Of course, you’re No. 1 in the country when you’re beating a bunch of females. That’s not something to brag about.” 

The second swimmer slammed the NCAA rules on transgender athletes.

“While they say they care about all of us, our interests are in direct conflict with the interests of Lia in regard to fair competition and getting to compete,” she said. “While we support Lia as a person to make decisions for her own life, you cannot make that decision and then come impede on other people and their rights.”

“Your right doesn’t supersede everyone else’s right,” she added. “I don’t know what the solution is, but I know this is not it. Because people talk about how the trans community might’ve been marginalized before and this is supposed to be helping, but you can’t help the trans community by marginalizing [biological] women.”

The athlete proclaimed that “the NCAA doesn’t care about the integrity of women’s sports.” She characterized the NCAA’s embrace of trans-identified athletes as a “slap in the face” to female athletes “who train every day and give up so much for this sport.”

“I know no matter what, biological women will never be on an equal playing field with transgender females,” she asserted.

While female athletes continue to accuse the NCAA of taking inadequate action to protect fairness in their sports, nine states have taken action to require those participating in athletics at the K-12 level to play on sports teams that correspond with their biological sex as opposed to their gender identity. 

Critics of policies allowing trans-identified athletes to compete on teams that match their gender identity cite biological differences between men and women and a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine finding that biologically male athletes retain an advantage over their biologically female counterparts even after a year of hormone use. 

Progressive organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, deny that any “unfair” advantage exists for trans-identified biological males who compete against women or girls. The ACLU contends that “athletes vary in athletic ability just like cisgender athletes,” and success often depends on mastering techniques and dedication to training.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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