Sport

USA Swimming unveils new trans policy amid relentlessly transphobic Lia Thomas backlash

Lily Wakefield February 2, 2022
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Lia Thomas of the Pennsylvania Quakers shakes hands with a competitor

Lia Thomas of the Pennsylvania Quakers shakes hands with a competitor. (Getty/ Hunter Martin)

USA Swimming, the American swimming governing body, has revealed a new policy for elite trans swimmers amid backlash over swimmer Lia Thomas.

Thomas, a swimmer on the University of Pennsylvania women’s team, has experienced relentless transphobia in the media, as critics claim that her talent could only stem from an unfair advantage.

As transphobes use Lia Thomas’s competitions as part of a nationwide debate over trans inclusion in sports, USA Swimming has announced a new policy for elite trans swimmers.

The policy, announced Tuesday (1 February) and effective immediately, 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.

The new policy is the result of “several months of internal work, critical stakeholder discussions, and medical and legal review”, USA Swimming said, and “acknowledges a competitive difference in the male and female categories and the disadvantages this presents in elite head-to-head competition”.

The rules will only apply to elite-level swimmers, and USA Swimming said it “remains steadfast in its continued commitment to greater inclusivity at the non-elite levels”.

Although at least one University of Pennsylvania swimmer has spoken anonymously to media outlets to claim that Lia Thomas’s participation is unfair, this week “several” her teammates released a joint statement of support.

They told ESPN: “We want to express our full support for Lia in her transition.

“We value her as a person, teammate and friend.

“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.”

More: Lia Thomas, trans athletes, transphobia, USA Swimming

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