The Ivy League has issued a statement in support of Lia Thomas after the transgender swimmer received a large amount of backlash to her participation in NCAA events.
Thomas, who competes for the University of Pennsylvania, has been the subject of widespread controversy since competing at a number of events last year.
She set two Ivy League records at the Zippy International last month, winning one event by around 38 seconds. She also holds NCAA women’s records in the 200 metre and 500m freestyle.
Even though Thomas meets the eligibility standards set by the NCAA for women’s events, she has received massive backlash for competing.
Broadcaster and journalist Piers 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.
In response, both the Ivy League and University of Pennsylvania have issued messages of support for Thomas, making it clear she is abiding by NCAA guidelines.
“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,” the Ivy League statement reads.
“The Ivy League reaffirms its unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form.
“The league welcomes her participation in the sport of women’s swimming and diving and looks forward to celebrating the success of all of our student-athletes throughout the season.”
Penn Athletics released a similar statement, saying they were “committed to being a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our student-athletes, coaches and staff and we hold true to that commitment today and in the future.”
Thomas recently gave an interview for SwimSwam Podcast, detailing her transition from male to female.
She explained how she began to transition in May 2019, starting hormone replacement therapy. She continued to compete on the men’s team, however, and her performances dipped.
One year after beginning testosterone suppression, she submitted all of her medical work to the NCAA, and was approved to compete on the women’s swimming team at the University of Pennsylvania.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the entire 2020-21 season, meaning Thomas has only just begun competing as a woman.
She said her team had been “unbelievably supportive” since her transition.
“I feel very supported,” Thomas said. “Just treated like any other member of the women’s team.”
The topic of transgender athletes in sport 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.”