A former teammate of Lia Thomas, along with a rival team member who once tied with Thomas, blasted the transgender college swimmer’s championship title as illegitimate after swimming’s international governing body, the International Swimming Federation (FINA), issued stringent new restrictions on transgender swimmers.
On Monday, FINA released a new “gender inclusion policy” that allows only transgender swimmers who transitioned from male to female before age 12 to compete in women’s events.
“I’m very hopeful about it,” Thomas’ teammate, who was granted anonymity out of fear of backlash, said of the new restrictions.
“I am incredibly happy that Lia Thomas will never be an Olympic gold medalist. I think that’s great. But this doesn’t actually fix the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association],” she told The Daily Wire.
Thomas, 22, competed on the men’s team at the University of Pennsylvania before coming out as transgender in 2019 and starting testosterone blockers and estrogen. Last year, Thomas competed on the women’s team, sparking a national debate. In March, Thomas won the NCAA Division I national championship after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle event.
The NCAA’s current policy allows biological males to compete on women’s teams after completing just one year of testosterone suppression treatment.
Thomas’ teammate said she “would love” for the NCAA to rescind Thomas’ championship title, although she’s doubtful that will happen. Even if the NCAA follows FINA’s lead and restricts transgender athletes on women’s teams, Thomas will likely be “grandfathered in,” the teammate said, adding that she finds that “ridiculous.”
Riley Gaines, a University of Kentucky swimmer, tied with Thomas for fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle final at the NCAA championship in March. She left the competition that day with a sixth-place trophy after the NCAA decided to give Thomas the fifth-place trophy.
“I believe Lia is not the fastest female in the 500-yard freestyle, therefore I don’t think she should be awarded as a female national champion,” Gaines told The Daily Wire.
Gaines said the NCAA “needs to take accountability” and follow FINA’s lead on restricting transgender athletes on women’s teams, which she called “a bold first step on behalf of fairness in women’s sports.”
“FINA prioritized competitive fairness which is more than any other large governing body has done thus far,” Gaines said, adding that she appreciated that FINA took into account science and the perspectives of other athletes.
“The only downfall is now that there is a set age to be transgender and allowed to compete as a female, will children be more swayed into transitioning without fully understanding what they’re doing and committing to?” Gaines asked.
Thomas’ teammate who spoke with The Daily Wire also praised FINA for listening to the science, but voiced a similar concern that young swimmers could be pushed into transitioning earlier.
“The boys are actually slower than the girls under the age of 12. So scientifically speaking, that is actually the correct year to pick,” she said. “Socially, I don’t agree with that.”
“I think really, scientifically, this policy makes a lot of sense, and I’m also really happy that it’s also going to be put into place in water polo,” she said. “Water polo is a very aggressive sport. People get their suits pulled down. They get clawed. I definitely don’t want to see biological men on women’s water polo teams.”
Thomas’ teammate also said that she had to share a locker room with Thomas while they were on the team together and is concerned about the larger issue of allowing biological men into female-only spaces.
She added that just because Thomas did not win every single event does not mean the national champion did not enjoy an unfair advantage.
“There have been a lot of athletes that have been caught for doping and they didn’t necessarily win gold,” Thomas’ teammate said.