The most decorated Olympian of all time responded to a question about a trans swimmer shattering records for the University of Pennsylvania by comparing the situation to doping and asking for what he called a "level playing field."
When asked in a recent interview about 22-year-old swimmer Lia Thomas by CNN host Christiane Amanpour, former competitive swimmer Michael Phelps, 36, responded by recalling his own experiences competing on a playing field that wasn't level.
"I can talk from the standpoint of doping," Phelps responded. "I don't think I've competed in a clean field in my entire career."
Phelps squarely blamed the relevant organizing committees for a lack of leadership in creating a truly fair field of competition.
\u201cReacting to ongoing debate over trans college athlete Lia Thomas competing on the women\u2019s swimming team, \u201cit\u2019s very complicated,\u201d says @MichaelPhelps. \u201cWe all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin. But I think sports should be played on an even playing field.\u201d\u201d
"Because it has to be a level playing field," Phelps explained. "That's something that we all need. Because that's what sports are. For me, I don't know where this is going to go. I don't know what's going to happen."
Thomas was assigned male at birth and competed on the men's teams before beginning testosterone suppression therapy in 2019. She joined the women's team last fall as a fifth-year senior after the Ivy League canceled the 2020-21 season and has been setting pool and school records.
Unconfirmed reports from anonymous sources claiming to be teammates of Thomas told the
the trans swimmer is not a bad person, but "laughs about it and mocks the situation" and has little regard for others.
"She compares herself to Jackie Robinson," one alleged teammate was quoted by the
. "She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports."
\u201cThe Ivy League releases the following statement of support regarding Penn's Lia Thomas' participation on the women's swimming and diving team. \ud83c\udf3f\u201d
For his part, Phelps affirmed the right of all folks to live according to their true identity, but seemed at a loss of how exactly to achieve that in sports.
"I believe that we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin," he said. "But I think sports should all be played on an even playing field."
"I don't know what it looks like in the future," he said, faltering for words. "It's hard.
"It's complicated," interjected Amanpour.
"It's very complicated and this is my sport, this has been my sport my whole entire career, and honestly the one thing I would love is everybody being able to compete on an even playing field. That's all I can say."