The declaration from the World Swimming Coaches Association (WSCA) follows University of Pennsylvania women’s swimmer and biological male Lia Thomas winning an NCAA championship in March, just one year after competing as a male. The organization said allowing transgender athletes to compete dooms the sport’s competitive balance.
“For the sport of swimming, the inclusion of transgender people on the grounds of fairness cannot co-exist in the current competitive model,” read the statement, reported by Swimming World magazine. “Swimming should choose to offer competition in which the female category is protected for reasons of competitive fairness.”
In March, Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title after finishing first in the women’s 500-yard freestyle. Some of Thomas’s teammates and competitors complained publicly and privately that it was not fair for them to have to compete against the almost 6-foot, 4-inch biological male.
The group said it is committed to finding a way to include transgender swimmers in competition, possibly by forming a “trans division.” But it was adamant that biological males should not race against women.
“The inclusion of transgender people into female sport cannot be balanced with fairness due to the retained differences in strength, stamina and physique that are present when comparing the average female with the average transgender female/non-binary person who was assigned male at birth (whether with or without the involvement of testosterone suppression),” the statement read. “This is the primary factor to be considered in an endeavor to balance fairness with inclusion.”
Thomas’s swimming pool exploits this year prompted lawmakers in several states to take steps to exclude biological males from participating in women’s sports. In addition, Republicans in the House and Senate sought last month to prohibit schools that receive federal funds from allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports.
“Why would we send federal funds to schools that permit an unlevel playing field by allowing biological males to compete against girls and women?” asked Republican Study Committee Executive Committee Member Jeff Duncan (R-SC). “Female athletes have a legally guaranteed right to compete with other women on a level playing field, and this must be protected for the future of women’s sports.”