Lia Thomas fans say trans swimmer is being 'targeted' as new rules could end her career

USA Swimming's recently updated rules say that competitors in women's events must have recorded low levels of testosterone for 36 months


                            Lia Thomas fans say trans swimmer is being 'targeted' as new rules could end her career
To be able to to participate, Thomas will be required to disclose the nanomoles per liter in her blood (Credits: Penn Athletics)
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USA Swimming's recently updated rules say that competitors in women's events must have recorded low levels of testosterone for 36 months. The new rule put transgender swimmer Lia Thomas' athletic future in doubt amid all the controversy she has been surrounded by. The previous rules required a year of suppressing testosterone, which would have meant that Thomas could have dominated the NCAA championship in Atlanta in March this year. 

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On Tuesday, February 1, USA Swimming updated their 'elite athlete policy'. Thomas, being an elite athlete, is facing the rules' consequences. They have said the new rules regarding eligibility for transgender athletes "will be implemented by a decision-making panel comprised of three independent medical experts".

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"Eligibility criteria will consist of: 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," they continued. "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."

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To be able to participate, Thomas will be required to disclose the nanomoles per liter in her blood. While a biological male will have 10-35 nanomoles of testosterone per liter of blood, a biological female will have 0.5-2.5, Mount Sinai hospital says.

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"At the elite level, a policy has been created for transgender athlete participation in the U.S. that relies on science and medical evidence-based methods to provide a level-playing field for elite cisgender women, and to mitigate the advantages associated with male puberty and physiology," USA Swimming said. 

Recently, a member of the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team said that teammates are uncomfortable changing in the locker room in transgender swimmer Lia Thomas's presence. Thomas has reportedly said that she dates women. “It’s definitely awkward because Lia still has male body parts and is still attracted to women,” the swimmer said.

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The swimmer said that some of the team members have even spoken to the coaches about asking Thomas to change elsewhere. Those discussions, however, have not led to any solution. “Multiple swimmers have raised it, multiple different times,” the swimmer said. “But we were basically told that we could not ostracize Lia by not having her in the locker room and that there’s nothing we can do about it, that we basically have to roll over and accept it, or we cannot use our own locker room.”

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The swimmer also said that Thomas “seems like she enjoys” the attention she gets due to the controversy around her. “It’s affected all of us way more than it’s affected her,” Thomas’ teammate said. The swimmer also claimed that the teammates are afraid of talking about their issues because they might be labeled “transphobic". “If this gets a little bit bigger, I might go on the record, but I’m definitely a little afraid,” she said. “What I’m afraid of is that potential employers will Google my name and see commentary about things I said and think, oh, this person’s transphobic.”

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A lot of controversies have surrounded the transgender swimmer in recent times. Thomas, 22, is a transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania who has been shattering women’s records at the school. Thomas competed for three years at Penn as a man, Will Thomas, before the transition. At a meet on November 20 last year, Thomas had a 1:43:47 time in the 200-meter freestyle and 4:35:06 in the 500-meter freestyle. These times, which were records for Penn, would have placed Thomas second and third, respectively in the NCAA Women’s Championships. Thomas breaking women’s records has, like always, raised questions about how fair it is when people who are born as men compete as women. There has been a lot of debate surrounding what is fair on the field, the court, the track, and in the pool. 

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'Clearly made to target Lia Thomas'

A number of social media users are talking in favor of Thomas, some of them claiming that she has been treated badly. "Mark my words: the first trans woman to meet these new standards and still win a competition by following the rules will be dismissed as a cheater and this process will start all over again. Lia Thomas has been egregiously treated. It is shameful how the NCAA caved," one user wrote. "This policy is not based in any sort of scientific evidence and was clearly made to target Lia Thomas. Awful. Dreadful. Terrible. Unforgivable. LET HER SWIM!!!" another user said. 

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"When I read the "math" determining how long trans women athletes need to be on HRT, then how long Lia Thomas had been on it + when she graduates, I needed to shut my laptop for a second. Cruelty to the point of being absurd," one user said, while another wrote, "I feel so bad for Lia Thomas, can't imagine what it's like to become such a politicised issue just for swimming. Shows how much they hate us. I hope she's ok." One user commented, "This policy is not evidence-based. It's made specifically to disqualify Lia Thomas and trans women."

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