Lia Thomas’ Teammates Issue Letter Asking UPenn to Accept Protections for Female Athletes

Photo by Marcus Ng on Unsplash

Teammates of transgender UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas have issued an open letter calling on the university not to challenge newly-issued regulations which protect female athletes from the unfair advantage enjoyed by transgender competitors.

Swimming World published the letter, which it noted came days after several members of the UPenn women’s team issued a letter in support of Thomas, who joined the team after competing as a male for two seasons and promptly broke several records.

The women called on the university not to litigate against USA Swimming’s “Athlete Inclusion Procedures” which came after the NCAA issued new guidelines allowing each sport to determine how to include transgender athletes in competition.

“We ask that Penn and the Ivy League support us as biological women, and not engage in legal action with the NCAA to challenge these new Athlete Inclusion Policies,” the women, represented by Nancy Hogshead-Makar of the organization Champion Women, wrote.

“In particular, we appreciate USAS Guideline’s guiding purpose, to ensure that transgender women competing in the Female competition category ‘do not have an unfair advantage over their cisgender Female competitors in Elite Events,’” they noted.

The swimmers were clear that they support Thomas’ gender identity and transition, noting they believe that “Lia has every right to live her life authentically.”

“However, we also recognize that when it comes to sports competition, that the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity,” they noted.

The athletes explained that “Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female. If she were to be eligible to compete against us, she could now break Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete.”

The letter details that many of the swimmers who, like Thomas, have trained since they were preteens for a chance to compete at the collegiate level, missed out on competitive opportunities after the former member of the men’s team joined their own.

“To be sidelined or beaten by someone competing with the strength, height, and lung capacity advantages that can only come with male puberty has been exceedingly difficult,” they wrote.

Explaining that they have been largely silenced and threatened with removal from the team and missed future job opportunities if they spoke out against Thomas’ inclusion on the team, the women poignantly noted, “We support Lia’s mental health, and we ask Penn and the Ivy League to support ours as well.”

“We hope that sport will adapt; that swimming will find a place for Lia to compete. Lia is always welcome to train with us; the men’s and women’s swimming teams have always trained together with the same head coach,” the letter explains.

“However, sport is competitive by definition, and Lia’s wins, records, and honors should not come at our expense, the women who have worked their entire lives to earn a spot on the Penn Women’s Swimming Team.”

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