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A group of University of Arizona swimmers that includes former Olympians wrote a letter of concern last month to the NCAA after transgender athlete Lia Thomas’s sweep at the recent women’s championship in Atlanta, where Thomas, a biological male, outperformed and out-placed multiple female competitors.
Sent in late March to the NCAA Board of Governors, the athletes said that the collegiate governing body “has successfully failed everyone” by allowing Thomas, who has distinct biological advantages, to compete against women to “appease everyone.”
Thomas “catapulted a team to a top-20 program in the country after failing to score a single point last year,” the letter alleges.
The letter asks of the sports organization: “Do we have a voice?”
“It’s hard to express the anguish the women’s swim community has experienced this past week watching the 2022 NCAA Swim & Dive Championships. On one hand, we feel we are witnessing irrevocable damage to a sport that has transformed our own identities for the better. On the other, we have reconnected with each other in sisterhood after many busy years living our lives beyond the water’s edge,” the authors write.
The swimmers shared their grievances, namely that “women athletes competing in the meet were forced to swim in unfair direct competition therefore eliminating all integrity of the entire championship meet.” However, they noted that the NCAA’s preoccupation with LGBT inclusion also potentially harmed the transgender community, as ” a target was placed on the back of a trans athlete subjecting this person to devastating national outcry and humiliation.”
Thomas, a fifth-year swimmer with the University of Pennsylvania, won the 500-meters freestyle race in March, becoming the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I.
The NCAA has not yet responded to the group’s letter, Fox News reported.
“We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX this year. From the birth of the NCAA in 1906 until 1972, women had to fight to earn the law that provided equal opportunities for women in sports. It took a male to female transgender person one year to take the women’s swimming national championship title. This is not equality. Women’s standings, titles, records, and scholarships are suddenly at risk again,” they added.
The letter cited Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy, who argued Thomas stole her chances of advancing to finals since she came in 17th place in a race in which only the first 16 could move on.
“Therefore, a trans athlete could have been added to any finals heat in addition to the 16 women who qualified without pushing any of the deserving women out of the finals such as VT’s Reka Gyorgy, who personally spoke out about the inequality she was subjected to being shut out of the finals,” they said.
The group also noted that transgender athletes are potentially stealing financial aid opportunities from female athletes.
“Opening the door to allowing natural born men to acquire precious, life altering financial aid packages often split up between multiple women per team defeats the very essence of the flagship legislation we are ironically celebrating this very year,” they continued.