University of Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas, a transgender female who was born male, won the women’s swimming 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle races against Harvard on Saturday.
Thomas dominated the women’s events days after the NCAA voted in support of a sport-by-sport approach for transgender participation in athletics.
After Thomas won the events, other fellow swimmers said they felt frustrated for having to compete on an uneven playing field with a biological male.
“Women are now third-class citizens,” an anonymous UPenn swimmer reportedly told the Washington Examiner. “Lia was not even close to being competitive as a man in the 50 and the 100 [freestyle events],” she added. “But because Lia is biologically a man, [Lia] is just naturally better than any females in the 50 and the 100, or anything that [Lia] wasn’t good at as a man.”
After swimming for three years on the men’s team, Thomas joined the women’s team after transitioning. Thomas then went on to smash records and win countless events for women’s swimming.
In UPenn’s 2021-2022 women’s swimming season, Thomas smashed record times in the women’s 50-meter freestyle. However, Thomas’s record-time women’s freestyle would have only been the 17th best time in the men’s 50-meter freestyle.
At the Zippy Invitational Event in Akron, Ohio, Thomas won the 1,650-yard freestyle, finishing 38 seconds ahead of the closest challenger, teammate Anna Kalandaze.
During the women’s 200-meter freestyle in December, Thomas swam the fastest time in the country for a “female” in the event.
The NCAA updated their policies for transgender athletes last week, leaving it up to the national governing body for each sport to establish their eligibility requirements.
“The top people at NCAA, who are on the board of directors—they are not protecting women’s rights,” the anonymous UPenn swimmer reportedly told the Washington Examiner.
Under the NCAA’s new policy, Thomas is still eligible to compete in women’s swimming this season.
“It’s crazy because I don’t actually know if Lia thinks this is fair,” said the anonymous swimmer. “This can’t possibly be rewarding in any way.”
The anonymous swimmer also said that she is supported by other teammates and people with different political leanings.
“People have come up to me and said ‘this is so wrong,'” she said. “I am typically liberal, but this is past that. This is so wrong. This doesn’t make any sense.”
A group of women from the team reportedly considered boycotting their final home meeting, according to the Daily Mail, but decided not to out of fear of facing repercussions from the school and being labeled as “transphobic.”
“If it were me, I’d step up with a sign on my chest stating something like, ‘NCAA–speak up! We need answers,'” a parent of one of the swimmers reportedly told the Daily Mail. “It’s possible the swimmers may end up doing nothing because they are so afraid to be perceived as transphobic.”
Another source also reportedly told the Daily Mail that Thomas will continue to outperform the competition.
“It’ll be like the last couple meets. Lia will finish and nobody will give a s**t. Then, when the first biological female finishes, there will be a huge eruption of applause,” the source said.