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New Rules Might End Record-Setting Season For Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas

New Rules Might End Record-Setting Season For Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas

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Hunter Martin/Getty Images

While some object, Thomas has received support from her school and teammates.

USA Swimming announced it has changed its policies for transgender swimmers, and the move might bring an early end to the controversial, record-setting season of University of Pennsylvania athlete Lia Thomas.

USA Swimming is the governing body of competitive swimming in the U.S. The new policy changes increase the required time of testosterone suppression from one year to three years for elite trans athletes and also subjects them to review by a panel of experts to determine if their prior development provides "an unfair advantage" against their potential competition against cisgender swimmers. While the NCAA technically regulates competition and eligibility requirements among its member colleges and universities, they announced they would defer to national governing bodies like USA Swimming for its guidelines regarding transgender athletes.

Thomas, who swims for the University of Pennsylvania, began transitioning in May of 2019, so it remains unclear if she has met the new policy requirements.

"USA Swimming has and will continue to champion gender equity and the inclusivity of all cisgender and transgender women and their rights to participate in sport, while also fervently supporting competitive equity at elite levels of competition," USA Swimming said in a statement announcing the policy changes.

USA Swimming noted how the top-ranked female swimmer in 2021 would, on average, rank 536th among males in short yard (25 yards) events and 326th among males in long yard (50 meters) events.

"The policy therefore supports the need for competitive equity at the most elite levels of competition," USA Swimming concluded.

According to USA Swimming, the panel review would use two criteria to determine eligibility. Evidence that "the prior physical development of the athlete as a male, as mitigated by any medical intervention, does not give the athlete a competitive advantage over the athlete's cisgender female competitors" and evidence that "the concentration of testosterone in the athlete's serum has been less than 5 nmol/L (as measured by liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry) continuously for a period of at least thirty-six (36) months before the date of application."

An official at UPenn had earlier stated they would sue if there was a mid-season rule change, but it was unclear if they would follow through on their threatened actions.

Thomas has dominated the competition this season, setting multiple NCAA records and finishing over two pool lengths and 38 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher in a recent race. Anonymous teammates claimed Thomas is "not a bad person" but "has little regard for her teammates," and has allegedly compared herself to the late Jackie Robinson, who broke the racist color barrier in Major League Baseball.

"She compares herself to Jackie Robinson," one alleged teammate claimed recently. "She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports."

But not all of Thomas's teammates take such a negative view of her presence on the team. ESPN reported an unsigned letter from members of UPenn's women's swimming and diving teams expressed support for Thomas.

"We want to express our full support for Lia in her transition," the letter said, which a school representative told ESPN represented the support of "several" members of the swimming and diving teams. "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."

RELATED | Michael Phelps Weighs in on Lia Thomas Controversy

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