Members of the University of Pennsylvania’s women’s swimming team are upset about a transgender teammate’s dominance, and considered boycotting the team’s final home meet, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.
”They’ve been ignored by both Penn and the NCAA, and there is a feeling among some of the girls that they should make some sort of statement, seize the opportunity while they have a spotlight on them to make their feelings about the issue known,” a source close to the team of 41 women told DailyMail.com.
At issue is teammate Lia Thomas, who swam on the men’s team for three years as Will Thomas but has since transitioned and after a year of required hormone therapy to reduce testosterone in accordance with NCAA rules, is now part of the women’s team and shattering school records.
A Dec. 7 story in the Daily Pennsylvanian said that Thomas has been ”blowing her competition and record books out of the water.”
At that weekend’s meet in Ohio, Thomas set school, program and pool records for the fastest time in the 200-yard freestyle event, which was also the fastest time recorded so far nationally at 1:41.93, according to the report.
Such success has apparently led to hard feelings among Thomas’ teammates, but many of them are scared to speak out, afraid of being labeled ”transphobic,” the source told the Daily Mail.
”If it were me, I’d step up with a sign on my chest stating something like – ‘NCAA – Speak up. We need answers,”’ the parent of one of the swimmers told DailyMail.com. ”But it’s possible the swimmers may end up doing nothing because they are so afraid to be perceived as transphobic.”
A group of 10 parents of the team’s members sent a letter to the NCAA demanding rule changes so that Thomas cannot dominate so easily.
”At stake here is the integrity of women’s sports,” they wrote in the letter obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com and sent to the NCAA and forwarded to the Ivy League and Penn officials. ”The precedent being set – one in which women do not have a protected and equitable space to compete – is a direct threat to female athletes in every sport. What are the boundaries? How is this in line with the NCAA’s commitment to providing a fair environment for student-athletes?”
In an April 12 statement, the NCAA said it ”firmly and unequivocally” supports transgender athletes participating in college sports.
”The NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports,” the statement said. ”This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition.”
The organization said it has ”a long-standing policy” that provides ”a more inclusive path” for transgender athletes to participate by going through a year of hormonal therapy to suppress testosterone in transgender women to participate in women’s sports and aligns with the polices of both the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
”Inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport,” the statement said. ”Our clear expectation as the Association’s top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect. We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them.”
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