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‘Her Rankings … Have Bounced From #462 As A Male To #1 As A Female’: 16 Lia Thomas Teammates Sign Letter Asking Penn Not To Sue NCAA, Bar Thomas From Competing

“We have been told that if we spoke out against her inclusion into women’s competitions, that we would be removed from the team or that we would never get a job offer.”

   DailyWire.com
Lia Thomas
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On Thursday, 16 members of the Penn Women’s Swimming Team sent a letter to the University of Pennsylvania and the Ivy League asking them to refrain from suing the NCAA over its new Athlete Inclusion Policies that would bar Lia Thomas, formerly known as Will Thomas, from participating in the NCAA championships in March. They stated, “We have been told that if we spoke out against her inclusion into women’s competitions, that we would be removed from the team or that we would never get a job offer.”

“The group, organized by three-time Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar, sent the letter early Thursday morning asking UPenn and the Ivy League to support us as biological women’ and not engage the NCAA in legal action in an effort to challenge the new protocols,” Swim Swam reported, adding, “Hogshead-Makar says that the swimmers wrote the letter themselves, though both Hogshead-Makar, an organized group of parents, and other athletes, made edits before arriving at the final draft.”

In the letter, the swimmers note, “Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female. If she (Thomas) were to be eligible to compete against us, she could now break Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete.”

They continue:

Most important to us is that Lia’s inclusion with unfair biological advantages means that we have lost competitive opportunities. Some of us have lost records. But even those that swim different events than Lia or were not in contention to make the Ivy Championships, we stand by our teammates who have lost out. It has often felt like Penn, our school, our league, and the NCAA did not support us.

We have dedicated our lives to swimming. Most of us started the same time Lia did, as pre-teens. We have trained up to 20 hours a week, swimming miles, running and lifting weights. To be sidelined or beaten by someone competing with the strength, height, and lung capacity advantages that can only come with male puberty has been exceedingly difficult.

On January 19, the NCAA Board of Governors issued its new transgender policy, permitting USA Swimming to determine its own criteria for transgender participation; on Tuesday, USA Swimming released its new Athlete Inclusion, Competitive Equity and Eligibility Policy. It stated that a competing athlete must submit “Evidence that the prior physical development of the athlete as a male, as mitigated by any medical intervention, does not give the athlete a competitive advantage over the athlete’s cisgender female competitors” and “Evidence that the concentration of testosterone in the athlete’s serum has been less than 5 nmol/L (as measured by liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry) continuously for a period of at least thirty-six (36) months before the date of application.”

The swimmers wrote in their letter, as reported by Swimming World Magazine:

We, 16 members of the Penn Women’s Swimming Team and our family members, thank USA Swimming, for listening to our request to prioritize fairness for biological women in our elite competitions. We ask that Penn and the Ivy League support us as biological women, and not engage in legal action with the NCAA to challenge these new Athlete Inclusion Policies.

Tuesday, USA Swimming released new “Athlete Inclusion Procedures” shortly after the NCAA acknowledged that each sport should determine how fairness and inclusion were to be accomplished. In particular, we appreciate USAS Guideline’s guiding purpose, to ensure that transgender women competing in the Female competition category “do not have an unfair advantage over their cisgender Female competitors in Elite Events.” (USAS, page 42, #6 (a))

We fully support Lia Thomas in her decision to affirm her gender identity and to transition from a man to a woman. Lia has every right to live her life authentically.

However, we also recognize that when it comes to sports competition, that the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity. Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female. If she were to be eligible to compete against us, she could now break Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete.

The Penn Women’s Swimming Team has over 40 women, but only 18 of us are chosen to compete in the end-of-year culmination of our work: the Ivy Championships. Most important to us is that Lia’s inclusion with unfair biological advantages means that we have lost competitive opportunities. Some of us have lost records. But even those that swim different events than Lia or were not in contention to make the Ivy Championships, we stand by our teammates who have lost out. It has often felt like Penn, our school, our league, and the NCAA did not support us.

We have dedicated our lives to swimming. Most of us started the same time Lia did, as pre-teens. We have trained up to 20 hours a week, swimming miles, running and lifting weights. To be sidelined or beaten by someone competing with the strength, height, and lung capacity advantages that can only come with male puberty has been exceedingly difficult.

We have been told that if we spoke out against her inclusion into women’s competitions, that we would be removed from the team or that we would never get a job offer. When media have tried to reach out to us, these journalists have been told that the coaches and athletes were prohibited from talking to them. We support Lia’s mental health, and we ask Penn and the Ivy League to support ours as well.

We hope that sport will adapt; that swimming will find a place for Lia to compete. Lia is always welcome to train with us; the men’s and women’s swimming teams have always trained together with the same head coach.

However, sport is competitive by definition, and Lia’s wins, records, and honors should not come at our expense, the women who have worked their entire lives to earn a spot on the Penn Women’s Swimming Team.

We just celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day. In honor of the Title IX pioneers who have worked so hard for women to have opportunities in sports and for educational opportunities for all women, we ask the University of Pennsylvania recognize the importance of providing fair competition and safe spaces for its biological female athletes. Further, we ask that Penn and the Ivy League refrain from suing the NCAA, or try to interfere with or weaken these new Athlete Inclusion Policies, that they be allowed to stand, so that we are able to finish our swimming season with distinction and pride.