Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Teammates say transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has their ‘full support’

Story at a glance

  • Teammates of Lia Thomas, a transgender female swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, on Tuesday said the athlete had their total support.
  • The statement is unsigned but was written by “several” members of the team, a Penn spokesperson told Changing America.
  • The statement comes less than a week after another team member, speaking anonymously to Fox News, said Thomas has an unfair advantage because she had gone through male puberty.

Members of the University of Pennsylvania’s women’s swimming and diving team on Tuesday said their teammate Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, has their “full support.”

“We want to express our full support for Lia in her transition,” the athletes wrote Tuesday in a statement obtained by Changing America. “We value her as a person, teammate, and friend.”

The statement is unsigned but was written by “several” members of the team, a Penn spokesperson said.

The statement comes less than a week after one of the university’s women’s swim team members, speaking anonymously to Fox News, said she believed the school was placing too little value on the rights of athletes assigned female at birth.


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The swimmer argued that the university has created an uneven playing field by allowing Thomas to compete against other women because Thomas, assigned male at birth, had gone through male puberty, developing a larger heart and lungs than most other women.

“It’s not just the difference between two girls and how one might have slightly larger lungs and that gives them a slight advantage,” the swimmer said. “These are monumental advantages that biological males just develop through puberty, and it’s not something that a year of [hormone treatments] can suppress because they still have all the muscle mass they had from the last 20 years.”

The NCAA last month updated its eligibility criteria for transgender athletes, which will now be determined by the national governing body of each sport. Under the previous policy, first introduced in 2010, female athletes could compete for a collegiate women’s sports team after completing a full year of testosterone suppression treatment.

Shortly after the athletic association’s announcement, the University of Pennsylvania Athletics Department pledged to support Thomas’ participation in the NCAA swimming and diving championships in March. Thomas has qualified for the women’s 200-yard, 500-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle events.

Thomas’ teammates on Tuesday said the anonymous comments to Fox News were not emblematic of the entire team’s feelings toward Thomas’ participation and recent success.

“The sentiments put forward by an anonymous member of our team are not representative of the feelings, values, and opinions of the entire Penn team, composed of 39 women with diverse backgrounds,” the athletes wrote. “We recognize this is a matter of great controversy and are doing our best to navigate it while still focusing on doing our best in the pool and classroom.”

Also on Tuesday, USA Swimming, the sport’s governing body, released new guidelines for trans athletes in elite competition.

“At the elite level, a policy has been created for transgender athlete participation in the U.S. that relies on science and medical evidence-based methods to provide a level-playing field for elite cisgender women, and to mitigate the advantages associated with male puberty and physiology,” USA Swimming said Tuesday in a news release.

The policy will be implemented by a panel of three medical experts, according to the governing body, and elite transgender female athletes will have to provide “evidence” that a competitive advantage over cisgender competitors does not exist because of their prior physical development “as a male.”


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