You’ve probably heard about the transgender Penn swimmer. We did a story on it last week, a story that some people didn’t like because we didn’t take a side.
But that was the whole point. We didn’t want to get bogged down in the morass of a super-charged and highly-divisive issue. Maybe that’s an indictment on us, since Crossing Broad will typically attack every story out there, no matter how controversial, but I don’t know enough about hormone therapy and all of that to write an educated opinion on transgender athletes. However, I think we’d all agree that Lia Thomas competing with women is making a mockery of the competition, and if you disagree, try to justify somebody beating the brakes off their peers. These races haven’t even been close.
That’s the CliffsNotes version. Penn has a swimmer who transitioned and is now racing against biological women. Those women and their parents aren’t happy about this and have written to the NCAA in an attempt to change the rules to make the sport fair for everybody involved.
Interestingly enough, the Editor-in-Chief of Swimming World, John Lohn, is a former Delco Times writer, and he penned a story on Sunday titled “Without NCAA Action, the Effects of Lia Thomas Situation are Akin to Doping.”
To review, Thomas is a transgender senior on the University of Pennsylvania women’s team and has produced several performances through the early portion of the season that suggest she will be an NCAA title contender. Previously, she was a three-year member of the men’s squad at Penn and was talented enough to earn All-Ivy League honors.
Her shift from the men’s team to the women’s team is a result of Thomas’ transition to female, and after fulfilling the NCAA’s requirement of one year of testosterone suppressant use, she is eligible to compete in collegiate competition as a member of a women’s program. The problem: The NCAA’s one-year suppressant requirement is not nearly stringent enough to create a level playing field between Thomas and the biological females against whom she is racing.
Despite the hormone suppressants she has taken, in accordance with NCAA guidelines, Thomas’ male-puberty advantage has not been rolled back an adequate amount. The fact is, for nearly 20 years, she built muscle and benefited from the testosterone naturally produced by her body. That strength does not disappear overnight, nor with a year’s worth of suppressants. Consequently, Thomas dives into the water with an inherent advantage over those on the surrounding blocks.
Let’s get this out of the way, because some readers will argue we are calling Lia Thomas a doper – regardless of the information presented and the selected verbiage. That is not the case. There is no intent. What we are stating is this: The effects of being born a biological male, as they relate to the sport of swimming, offer Thomas a clear-cut edge over the biological females against whom she is competing. She is stronger. It is that simple. And this strength is beneficial to her stroke, on turns and to her endurance. Doping has the same effect.
The inherent problem here is that the NCAA does have rules for transgender athletes, but Thomas has met those guidelines and is obliterating the competition anyway. The guidelines obviously are not strict enough, because right now the women she is beating don’t have any chance of keeping up. Lohn goes on to write that “the suppressants she has taken account for an approximate 2% to 3% change. The time difference between male and female swimming records is roughly 11%.” He suggests that the NCAA could allow Thomas to record exhibition times and compete against herself (paraphrasing), which would allow her current competitors a fair chance when going up against each other.
And maybe that’s the solution here. I think everybody can agree on a couple of things:
- if Thomas wants to swim, she should be able to swim
- but biological women don’t deserve to have their competition compromised, and collegiate athletic careers ruined, because of the above
- obviously the NCAA rules haven’t done enough to merge thoughts #1 and #2 in a reasonable and fair way
There’s a middle ground here, somewhere. There always is, and it’s up to the NCAA to figure it out, without getting dragged down into the muck. That’s the reason you don’t see a lot of local outlets doing this story, because I think they’re afraid of being cancelled, or whatever buzz word you wanna use. Action News did it, and played it safe, but most of the headlines you see belong to the likes of Outkick, Breitbart, and Fox News. Navigating all of the biological and physiological terminology and information is difficult for writers, but if you keep it simple you can boil it down to something like this:
“How do we make this fair for everyone?”
Because right now it’s not fair.