WASHINGTON (TND) — University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Lia Thomas made her way into the headlines, breaking college swimming records and sparking conversation about trans athletes competing in sports. While some applaud Thomas’ accomplishments, former USA Swimming official Cynthia Millen said Thomas had an unfair advantage.
“Bodies swim against bodies. Identities do not swim against identities,” said Millen to The National Desk’s Angela Brown. “What was happening at UPenn was that a person, who basically has transitioned, Lia, still has a male body. Men always will have an advantage over women in swimming; they have larger lung capacity, they have larger skeletons, they have larger hearts.”
According to the NCAA, “in the case of testosterone suppression, the institution must submit written documentation to the NCAA of the year of treatment and ongoing monitoring of testosterone suppression.” Thomas, who came out as transgender in 2019 after competing on the men’s team at Penn, submitted medical documentation showing one year of testosterone treatment in the summer of 2020. She is now over two years into hormone replacement therapy.
“The process of coming out as being trans and continuing to swim has a lot of uncertainty and unknown around an area that’s usually really solid. Realizing I was trans threw that into question. Was I going to keep swimming? What did that look like?” said Thomas to Penn Today. “Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding.”
But Millen says a year of hormone suppression drugs “does not take away the size of the skeleton, the size of the lungs.”
“Even if Lia would take suppression drugs for several years, it’s not going to reduce the size of Lia’s skeletal structure. It might reduce the musculature a small amount, but nothing else,” said Millen. “The advantage that Lia has coming into the years in which she will be taking suppression drugs, it’s not going to change the body at all. So, you are always going to have a male body competing against females.”
Millen said the NCAA rules are “totally inadequate.”
“Female sex has to compete against female sex, and that has to be the way it is,” said Millen.
Thomas said in a recent interview that her teammates and coaches have been “unbelievably supportive” throughout her transition. But Millen claims the “reaction behind the scenes is entirely negative.”
“Overwhelmingly, behind the scenes, people are against this from officials, coaches, former swimmers, all the way down the line,” said Millen.
But while Millen opposes trans women competing in sports, she said she’s not anti-trans.
“I would never attack Lia. Lia is a precious child of God,” said Millen. “The issue here is more important. There are girls who are being treated unfairly because a male body is competing against them.”
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