Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps weighed in on the ongoing controversy over a trans college swimmer, stating that while the situation is “hard” sports “must be played on an even playing field.”
Phelps was asked about college athlete Lia Thomas, a male who competed on the men’s team at the University of Pennsylvania before transitioning and joining the women’s team. NCAA bylaws allow male athletes to compete on women’s teams if they have undergone a year of testosterone suppression.
Thomas captured headlines after breaking numerous competitive records when swimming against female athletes and now could have a chance to compete for all-time NCAA records.
This career trajectory has, as many cases of male athletes out-performing female competition in women’s sports tracts often does, come with no small controversy.
One official to USA Swimming has resigned in protest, urging her colleagues to do the same, while Thomas’ own teammates are reportedly frustrated and about the whole situation.
Phelps told CNN’s Christianne Amanpour that “it has to be a level playing field. That’s something that we all need. Because that’s what sports are. For me, I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The 13-time gold medalist was by no means dismissive of Thomas’ side of the story, however.
“I believe that we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin, but I think sports should all be played on an even playing field,” he said.
“I don’t know what it looks like in the future. It’s hard. It’s very complicated and this is my sport, this has been my sport my whole entire career, and honestly the one thing I would love is everybody being able to compete on an even playing field.”
According to The Washington Examiner, one of Thomas’ teammates says the athlete “compares herself to Jackie Robinson” and “mocks” the situation.
“She laughs about it and mocks the situation. Instead of caring or showing that she cares about what she’s doing or what she’s doing to her teammates, she’s not sympathetic or empathetic at all. Lia never addressed our team. She never asked if it was OK. She never asked how we felt. She never tried to explain how she feels. She never has said anything to us as a group. She never addressed anything,” the unnamed swimmer said.
None of Thomas’ teammates have spoken on the record about their views.
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