Broadcaster and journalist Piers Morgan has been slammed for a “disgusting” column on transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.
Morgan wrote his Mail Online column on Thomas, a 22-year-old swimmer who represents the University of Pennsylvania in the United States.
Thomas has been making headlines after setting a number of women’s records for the University of Pennsylvania.
She competed at the Zippy International last weekend, setting a new pool and meet record in the preliminaries of the 500m freestyle.
In the finals, she swam more than 12 seconds faster, finishing in first place with a time of 4:34.06. That time is currently the best in the country for the women’s collegiate event.
Thomas also competed at a tri-meet with Cornell University and Princeton University on November 20th, recording an impressive time of 1 min 43:47 secs in the 200-metre freestyle, and finishing the 500m freestyle in 4:35:06.
If competing at the NCAA Women’s Championships, Thomas’s times would have seen her earn a silver medal in the 200m freestyle and a bronze medal in the 500m freestyle.
In his column, Morgan accused Thomas of “destroying women’s sport” and claimed it was “cruel and discriminatory” for her to be competing in the pool against cisgender women.
But Thomas met the eligibility standards set by the NCAA for women’s events in order to compete, completing one year of testosterone suppression treatment.
Thomas has been defended by social media users on Twitter, with one account describing Morgan’s column as “disgusting” and “unnecessary”.
“She is not ‘destroying’ the sport. She is pioneering and breaking records. Hopefully, despite all the disgusting and unnecessary backlash, other transgender women will follow Lia Thomas’ lead.”
Another Twitter user wrote: “This is divisive and transphobic. Lia Thomas is a trans woman but a woman first”, while another posted: “How she’s destroying women’s sport when she’s a woman”.
Morgan was also accused of being transphobic, with a social media user writing: “Tell me you’re all transphobes without telling me you’re all transphobes.”
The topic is a much-discussed one in the United States, particularly after nine states, including Texas and Florida, recently decided to ban transgender athletes from competing in female sports at schools.
The legislation, which applies to public school teams through high school, is part of a national campaign introduced by Republicans in 32 states. They claim it is protecting fair competition.
But, equal rights activists have argued there is no evidence that trans women and girls are dominating sports.
Ricardo Martinez, chief executive of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Texas, called the bill a “hateful, targeted attack on transgender people.”
Transgender MMA fighter Alana McLaughlin also claimed politicians in Texas were using trans kids as “scapegoats”.