The Ivy League and University of Pennsylvania have issued statements Thursday supporting swimmer Lia Thomas two days before she returns to the pool.
Thomas, a transgender swimmer who’s competing on Penn’s women’s team this season, has been the subject of widespread controversy and speculation since she dominated in the Zippy Invitational last month, setting two Ivy League records. She won the 1,650-yard freestyle by roughly 38 seconds, and owns the fastest times amongst all women in the NCAA in the 200- and 500-free.
Her success places her in the center of a brewing culture war between proponents for trans inclusion and those who want to curtail the participation of trans athletes in women’s sports. Thomas, who previously swam on the men’s team for Penn, has abided by the NCAA’s guidelines for trans athletes. The NCAA says trans women must undergo one year of hormone treatment as a condition prior to competing on a female team.
The Ivy League echoes those facts in its statement. “Over the past several years, Lia and the University of Pennsylvania have worked to comply with the NCAA to follow all of the appropriate protocols in order to comply with the NCAA policy on transgender athlete participation,” it reads.
The Ivy League releases the following statement of support regarding Penn's Lia Thomas' participation on the women's swimming and diving team. pic.twitter.com/wdEDW4ud5O— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) January 6, 2022
The Penn athletic department released its statement of support at the same time.
While the Ivy League’s and Penn’s public backing of Thomas is welcomed, the NCAA still hasn’t explained their trans-inclusion policy to the broader public, and why Thomas is following the rules. She’s wrongly been called a “cheater” in various right-wing and anti-trans outlets, largely without pushback from the NCAA or LGBTQ publications.
At Outsports, we are committed to covering this story, and the healthy dialogue we hope it produces about inclusion policies in sports. Penn hosts Dartmouth and Yale Saturday.
Read more: 6 truths and myths about Lia Thomas.