‘At Stake Here Is The Integrity Of Women’s Sports’: Parents Of Women On Penn Swim Team Fire Off Letter To NCAA About Trans Swimmer

At stake here is the integrity of women's sports. The precedent being set ... is a direct threat to female athletes in every sport.
Swimmer Lia Thomas
Penn Athletics

After transgender swimmer Lia Thomas utterly dominated the female swimmers at the University of Akron’s Zippy Invitational in early December, winning the 1650 free by a gargantuan 38 seconds ahead of the young woman finishing second, winning the 500 free by a whopping twelve seconds ahead of the woman finishing second, and winning the 200 free by a still-huge seven seconds while setting new Penn records along with meet and pool records, parents of roughly ten of the female swimmers on the team fired off a letter to the NCAA on December 5, blasting, “At stake here is the integrity of women’s sports.”

The letter, which was forwarded to the Ivy League and University of Pennsylvania officials, as The Daily Mail reported, stated:

At stake here is the integrity of women’s sports. The precedent being set – one in which women do not have a protected and equitable space to compete – is a direct threat to female athletes in every sport. What are the boundaries? How is this in line with the NCAA’s commitment to providing a fair environment for student-athletes? …

It is the responsibility of the NCAA to address the matter with an official statement….As the governing body, it is unfair and irresponsible to leave the onus on Lia, Lia’s teammates, Lia’s coaches, UPenn athletics and the Ivy League. And it is unfair and irresponsible to Lia to allow the media to dictate the narrative without the participation of the NCAA.

The mission and priorities of the NCAA are stated below. Please ensure that your actions and decisions are consistent with your mission for ALL Student-Athletes.

One mother of one of the female swimmers on the team told The Daily Mail, “The swimmers have mixed feelings. Many of them want to speak up, but they don’t because they believe they’ll be ostracized. Everybody is scared. Parents are also scared that the kids will be harmed. We are paying $80,000 for this school. Their life will be impacted.”

One of the mothers asserted, “I think that transgender people have a right to compete, but they need to have their own league….Being fair to one group of people shouldn’t take rights away from another group, and that’s what’s happening here….The NCAA obviously didn’t think much about the rules they set. It’s not fair to the women on the team and it’s not fair to Lia as well. She went through transition, and I admire her bravery. But the records she sets now are not valued records, female records.”

Another mother added, “Our swimmers are already impacted by this situation….My daughter is unable to focus. We are trying to give the swimmers a break, with interims now….But I’m a fighter by nature and I feel uncomfortable being silent. If everyone is silent, nothing is going to change. We’re giving the girls time for the midterms. Then we need to speak up as soon as possible.”

A father of another swimmer on the team said the parent group is “consulting with people who are very in tune with these issues and plan to issue a statement shortly.”

Video has surfaced of Thomas winning the 1650 free, showing how lopsided the race was with Thomas, who swam competitively for the men’s team during three seasons before switching to the women’s team, leaving female swimmers looking as if they were not even in the same race.

Thomas admitted in an interview with Swim Swam that before the process started of “transitioning” Thomas “had a lot of uncertainty about my future in swimming and whether or not I’d be able to keep swimming at all.” Asked about the feeling after breaking the Penn women’s swimming records, Thomas did not mention the women who wound up lagging far behind, only saying, “I’m very proud of my times and my ability to keep swimming and continue competing and they’re suited-up times and I’m happy with them and my coaches are happy with them. That’s what matters to me.”

member of the University of Pennsylvania’s swim team told Outkick that Thomas bragged after winning the 200 freestyle at the University of Akron Zippy Invitational, “That was so easy, I was cruising,” and after winning the 500 freestyle but disappointed with the time, boasted, “At least I’m still No. 1 in the country” in front of teammates.

The teammate said her fellow women teammates were crying on the Akron pool deck because they knew they had no chance of winning with Thomas competing. She said, “They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in it, they’re going to lose. 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. I think that it’s really getting to everyone.”

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