Swimming Through the Challenges


A photo of Lia Thomas after the prelims of the 500-yard freestyle at the Women’s Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships at Harvard University as photographed by Paul Rutherford.

Amelia Payne, Staff Writer

Transgender athletes and their participation within gendered sports have come under close consideration and criticism by the public throughout the past 20 to 40 years. A household name, for example, is Caitlin Jenner, a former Olympic Decathlon star who is a trans woman. Once again, the NCAA Board of Governs has called trans athletics into question with the recent decision of a sport-by-sport approach to transgender athletes’ participation, one that mimics policies made by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee, and something “that preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion, and safety for all who compete” according to their official statement.

This policy is thought to have been enacted because of controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas. Her participation in the Zippy Invitational sparked debate after she broke multiple records at the meet in January of 2022. According to Penn Athletics, her times in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle were the best in the nation this season. Her 1,650-yard freestyle event was record-breaking as she finished a full 38 seconds before the second place in her heat.

She declined to interview with NBC but has made comments that she has been on testosterone suppressants for 2.5 years. Some think that Thomas’ participation is unfair despite her testosterone suppression and that the NCAA and the University of Pennsylvania should prioritize safety, and what they deem fair, over inclusion. Hogshead-Makar, who writes in opposition to Thomas’s participation, argues that there is “nothing fair about Lia Thomas competing.” Others believe that, although the policy is vague, the NCAA is taking a step in the right direction.