Hundreds of top swimmers rally behind Lia Thomas: ‘Do not let politics hurt athletes’

Lia Thomas of the Pennsylvania Quakers shakes hands with a competitor

More than 300 swimmers have rallied behind trans college star Lia Thomas, saying “political pressure” shouldn’t be allowed to “compromise the safety and wellbeing of college athletes”.

In an open letter of support for Lia Thomas sent to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), 322 current and former NCAA, Team USA and international swimmers and divers said they “support and welcome transgender and non-binary athletes in our sport”.

“There are very real, documented threats to women’s swimming, including but not limited to rampant sexual abuse, and an inequitable number of women’s coaches within USA Swimming,” the open letter says.

“The NCAA also faces its own deep and historical challenges with gender equity, as outlined in the detailed report released last year focused on the stark differences between NCAA D1 men’s and women’s basketball. We can and should address these challenges.

“Transgender women are not and have never been a part of these challenges to women’s swimming, and sidelining them from sport does nothing to protect women athletes.”

This season is 22-year-old Lia Thomas’ first on the UPenn women’s team and she has been consistently bombarded with transphobia.

Reportedly, other swimmers on her own team at one point threatened to boycott meets where she was competing.

‘Do not adopt’ USA Swimming trans policy, say Lia Thomas supporters

As transphobes used her wins as fuel for a nationwide debate over trans inclusion in sports, USA Swimming announced a new policy for elite trans swimmers on 2 February.

The new policy states that trans women athletes must appear before a medical panel of three people, who will assess whether “prior physical development of the athlete as a male” gives them an advantage in swimming.

Elite trans swimmers will also have to undergo testosterone testing for 36 months before competing, during which time they must continuously maintain a testosterone level below five nanomoles per litre.

In the open letter supporting Lia Thomas, the swimmers urge the NCAA not to adopt USA Swimming’s new policy on trans athletes mid-season.

The letter also asks for “clear and consistent guidelines for developing and adopting new eligibility policies” that are “communicated well in advance of the season”, and for trans and non-binary athletes to be “directly engaged” with the policy development process.

The letter continues: “We express our support for Lia Thomas, and all transgender college athletes, who deserve to be able to participate in safe and welcoming athletic environments.

“We urge you to not allow political pressure to compromise the safety and wellbeing of college athletes everywhere.”