A male-born transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania has incited controversy after he set several pool, meet, and program records at a sporting event in Ohio last weekend. Lia Thomas, who was born male and competed as a man for two full seasons at the University of Pennsylvania, blew away the biologically female competition during Friday nights' 500-yard freestyle preliminaries and finals at the Zippy Invitational at the University of Akron.
The New York Post reported that in the finals, the male-born transgender athlete who competed in women's sports recorded a winning time of 4:34.06, making for a new Ivy League record. Thomas also broke records the following day on Saturday with a seven-second win in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:41.93, which makes for the fastest finish in the country, according to the school.
Thomas also set a new program, meet, and pool record in the 1650-yard freestyle over the weekend, finishing the race in 15:59.71, more than 38 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, teammate Anne Kalandadze, a female-born athlete. Current NCAA rules require transgender athletes like Thomas to have at least a year of testosterone suppression treatment before competing in women's sports.
Thomas told Penn Today in June 2020 that she took a year off during the pandemic and would compete during his senior year at the University of Pennsylvania. The male-born trans athlete said that swimming had been "a huge part" of his life and who he was, as he had been swimming since the tender age of five.
It was his transition that proved to be a challenge, because there was "a lot of uncertainty and unknown" about him being able to continue in the sport." Thomas said, "Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding."
However, not everyone is happy over Thomas's success. Some advocates of women's sports have expressed disapproval over the male-born transgender athlete's competition against women in women's sports, CBN News reported. Former NFL star Benjamin Watson took to Twitter to share his dismay, writing, "Men continue to find new ways to abuse women" while linking to the New York Post article.
University of Notre Dame professor of Political Philosophy Patrick Deneen also took to Twitter to share his disapproval and send a message to parents, "Let us hope that parents-especially parents of daughters-will rise up as they have against the other insanities of our age."
Prior to Thomas's competition at the Akron event last weekend, sports performance coach Linda Blade shared her outrage on Twitter, writing, "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."
A British study from 2020 has shown that despite hormone therapy, male-born transgenders still maintain an athletic advantage over their female peers. The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and has dire implications for transgender women who compete professionally against biological women, NBC News reported.