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20 Dec, 2021 18:30

Dominance of US trans college swimmer is like allowing doping, warns magazine chief

Dominance of US trans college swimmer is like allowing doping, warns magazine chief

A respected swimming magazine and its editor have joined the chorus of disapproval against controversial transgender US college star Lia Thomas.

Swimming World is one of the sport's most highly-respected publications and on Sunday its editor-in-chief, John Lohn, published a scathing editorial that challenged Thomas' right to compete in female competition.

Until 2019, Lia had competed as Will in the men's ranks at the University of Pennsylvania.

Post-lockdown, however, she has smashed a number of women's records including those for the Ivy League 500-yard freestyle as well as a program, competition, and pool record at the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio in the 1,650-yard freestyle where she finished 38 seconds ahead of her second-place rival.

READ MORE: The success of a transgender US college swimmer is a disturbing microcosm of a broader threat


As news of Thomas' exploits spreads, members of the public have expressed their disapproval while parents of her teammates have written a letter to the National Collegiate Athletic Association claiming the "integrity of women's sports" is at risk unless the rules are changed.

Joining the disgruntled, Lohn claimed that Thomas, though not a drug cheat, enjoys similar advantages to the likes of notorious athletes from yesteryear such as Kornelia Ender, Kristin Otto and Michelle Smith, who were all accused of doping.

"She is stronger. It is that simple. And this strength is beneficial to her stroke, on turns and to her endurance. Doping has the same effect," Lohn said.

The group of parents wished to see NCAA laws that allow trans women to compete after a year of testosterone suppression treatment changed, with Thomas said to have undergone two-and-a-half-years of still-ongoing hormone replacement therapy.

But while Lohn acknowledged Thomas, 22, has met "expectations for participation", he attacked the swimmer for suggesting in an interview that she does not have a significant advantage and said it was "preposterous at best, and denial at worst".

"Sure, it is on the NCAA to adjust its bylaws in the name of fair competition for the thousands of swimmers who compete at the collegiate level. It is also on Thomas to acknowledge her edge," he stressed.

"The NCAA needs to act, and it needs to act quickly," Lohn demanded. "This scenario – with the effects of doping – cannot linger.

"For the good of the sport, and for fairness to those competing as biological women, a ruling must come down soon," he concluded.

Reacting to the piece, a social media user said that the magazine was "harping on this way too much".

"It’s not her fault, it’s the NCAA’s," he added.

"No one forced Thomas to compete in the women’s [competitions]," came a reply to that.

"Self-awareness, empathy, and self-respect should have kept Thomas from making such a mockery of the game."

Agreeing elsewhere, someone suggested: "Let's invent sports for men who have not been able to win in men's sports."

"This is a strong case to suspend participation in the NCAA championship," kicked off a more elaborate response. 

"To make accommodations for one person and severely strain dozens of women…where is the outrage from feminists?"

"I think it will be hilarious. When men hold every women’s record, maybe then the NCAA will wake up and realize this was a stupid idea," one last critic predicted.