PHILADELPHIA (TND) — A transgender athlete who competes for the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team is again the focus of a teammate’s ire following two more victories.
Lia Thomas, 22, won the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle races on Saturday in a meet against Harvard University. Thomas’ success and inclusion have already sparked a nationwide conversation about fairness in women’s sports.
Speaking anonymously with The Washington Examiner’s Christopher Tremoglie, a teammate of Thomas’ spoke out, saying “women are now third-class citizens.”
Lia was not even close to being competitive as a man in the 50 and the 100 (freestyle events),” the anonymous swimmer reportedly said to Tremoglie . “But just because Lia is biologically a man, [Lia] is just naturally better than many females in the 50 and the 100 or anything that [Lia] wasn’t good at as a man.
Thomas has been in compliance with the NCAA’s policy for transgender athletes. She previously competed on the men’s team, but after taking testosterone suppressants for over a year, Thomas is allowed to compete as a woman.
Following the outcry, the NCAA changed part of its policy, adopting a “sport-by-sport” approach for transgender athletes similar to the Olympic policy.
The most decorated Olympian of all time, American swimmer Michael Phelps, has commented on Thomas’ dominance in the sport, saying the conversation surrounding transgender athletes is “very complicated” but there “has to be a level playing field”.
I think this leads back to the organizing committees again,” Phelps said during an appearance on CNN. “Because it has to be a level playing field. I think that’s something that we all need. Because that’s what sports are and for me, I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
The University of Pennsylvania said it would work with the NCAA and its newly-adopted standards for transgender athletes, but still supports Thomas and her inclusion in the sport.
“In support of our student-athlete, Lia Thomas, we will work with the NCAA regarding her participation under the newly adopted standards for the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship,” UPenn said in a statement.
In her anonymous interview, Thomas’ teammate says she doesn’t think the NCAA is doing enough to protect women’s rights against this “inequality”, adding it’s because “they don’t care”.
The top people at NCAA, who are on the board of directors they are not protecting women’s rights,” the teammate reportedly says. “Imagine if there was this kind of inequality in men’s sports. Or someone found out about doping in a men’s sport. It would be fixed in a blink of an eye. Everyone would be all over it. But because it’s women, they don’t care.
This is not the first time a teammate has spoken out about Thomas’ inclusion. Speaking anonymously in an interview with Outkick.com, one of Thomas’ teammates claimed most of the team has told their coaches they are upset about the situation.
Pretty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this,” said the member of the women’s swim club in the anonymous interview. “Our coach [Mike Schnur] just really likes winning. He’s like most coaches. I think secretly everyone just knows it’s the wrong thing to do.
They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in it; they’re going to lose. Usually, they can get behind the blocks and know they out-trained all their competitors and they’re going to win and give it all they’ve got,” the teammate said in her interview. “Now they’re having to go behind the blocks knowing no matter what, they do not have the chance to win. I think that it’s really getting to everyone.
The teammate who recently spoke with Tremoglie also says people have approached her, agreeing Thomas’ inclusion is wrong.
People have come up to me and said this is so wrong,” she says to Tremoglie. “I am typically liberal, but this is past that. This is so wrong. This doesn’t make any sense. I’m trying to do everything I can without harming my future from stopping this from happening. I can’t just sit back and let something like this happen. I’m not just going to sit back and say, ‘My rights are being taken away, too bad.’ It’s embarrassing that people aren’t speaking out more.
Due to the nature of anonymity, it is possible these publications are talking to the same teammates. Based on Outkick’s reporting, at least two teammates have spoken to them. It’s not confirmed if the teammate who spoke with Tremoglie anonymously also spoke with Outkick or any other publication.
Thomas previously competed for three seasons with the university men’s team, and set school records in the women’s 200-meter freestyle and women’s 500-meter freestyle events in November.
She also set a new program, meet, and pool record in the 1650-yard freestyle at a Dec. 3 meet, during which she was more than 38 seconds faster than her teammate, who finished second. That win qualified Thomas to compete in the NCAA national championship in Atlanta in March.