Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas eligible for Ivy League championships


Lia Thomas is indeed eligible to compete in the Ivy League swimming championships.

Thomas, a transgender swimmer for University of Pennsylvania, has been a lightning rod in the national news as she has shattered school records and could conceivably threaten national marks. Her eligibility for the conference championships has been mired in controversy as NCAA bylaws — which have stipulated that biological men can compete as women if they have undergone a year of testosterone suppression — are in the process of being reformed at the levels of individual sports.

“The recent rule changes do not impact Thomas’ eligibility for this month’s Ivy League Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships as the effective date for this unprecedented midseason NCAA policy change begins with the 2022 NCAA Winter Championships,” the Ivy League said in a statement to the website Swimming World.

It remains unclear whether Thomas, who swam for three years as a male, took a year off and has competed for UPenn’s women’s team this season, will be eligible to compete in the NCAA championships. The new NCAA policy defers to sports’ governing bodies. USA Swimming stipulates that transgender athletes must have testosterone concentration of less than 5 nmol/L for 36 consecutive months.

By this letter, Thomas would potentially be ineligible to compete in the championships, as she did not begin her transition until spring of 2019, but Swimming World notes that there could be a loophole to allow her to compete based on “flexibility to allow for additional eligibility if a transgender student-athlete loses eligibility based on the policy change provided they meet the newly adopted standards.”

Lia Thomas of the Pennsylvania Quakers swims in the 500 meter freestyle event
Lia Thomas, who has broken several UPenn records, could set new national marks as well.
Getty Images
Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas looks on in the warm-up pool
Lia Thomas competed for three years as a male before taking a year off.
AP Photo

Caitlyn Jenner, who won the gold in decathlon in the 1976 Olympics and transitioned in 2015, spoke out against the idea of Thomas competing against women in an interview with Fox News last month.

“I’ve said from the beginning, biological boys should not be playing in women’s sports,” Jenner said. “We need to protect women’s sports.”

“[Lia Thomas] is also not good for women’s sports. It’s unfortunate that this is happening. I don’t know why she’s doing it. She knows when she’s swimming she’s beating the competition by two laps. She was born as a biological boy. She was raised as a biological boy. Her cardiovascular system is bigger. Her respiratory system is bigger.

Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas looks on as she celebrates senior day with her teammates during a swim meet
Lia Thomas has drawn criticism — and support — from her UPenn teammates.
AP Photo

“Her hands are bigger. She can swim faster. That’s a known. All of this is woke world that we’re living in right now is not working. I feel sorry for the other athletes that are out there, especially at Penn or anyone she’s competing against, because in the woke world you have to say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is great.’ No it’s not.”


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