Lia Thomas says she made the transition to be happy, not to win swimming titles | Swimming

Lia Thomas, who earlier this year became the first transgender swimmer to win a major college title in the United States, pushed back against criticism that she had an unfair advantage over her competitors.

Thomas won the NCAA 500m freestyle title in March. USA Swimming policy states that trans athletes must undergo three years of hormone replacement therapy before they are allowed to compete. Thomas was six months away from that goal when she won the title, but the NCAA, the governing body for college sports in the United States, decided not to adopt USA Swimming rules and allowed her to compete.

Thomas has remained largely silent while competing, but spoke to ESPN in an interview published Tuesday.

“The biggest misconception, I think, is why I made the transition,” Thomas said. “People will be like, ‘Oh, she just transitioned to have an edge, so she could win. I made the transition to be happy, to be true to myself.

The former University of Pennsylvania athlete has received both criticism and support from the sports world. In March, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said transgender athletes posed a risk to the integrity of women’s sport.

“Gender cannot trump biology. As federation president, I don’t have that luxury. It’s a luxury that other organizations that aren’t in a position to have to deal with these issues have,” Coe said. told the Daily Telegraph. “But as far as I’m concerned, the scientific evidence, the peer-reviewed work that we’ve done, these regulations are the right approach.”

Republicans in the United States have introduced bills aimed at restricting the participation of transgender athletes in sports. They argue that they are protecting fairness in women’s sport. Thomas disagrees.

“Trans women who participate in women’s sports are not a threat to women’s sports as a whole,” Thomas said. “Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes. NCAA rules regarding trans women participating in women’s sports have been around for over 10 years. And we haven’t seen any massive wave of trans women dominating.

Some argued that trans athletes should compete in their own category, but Thomas dismissed those ideas in swimming.

“If you say, for example, you can compete, but you can’t score or you’re in an extra lane nine, that’s very different towards trans people,” Thomas said. “And it doesn’t give them the same level of respect and the same opportunity to play and compete.”

Thomas is graduating from Penn this month and plans to go to law school. She says her experiences encouraged her to pursue a career in civil rights.

“Having seen such hateful attacks on trans rights through legislation, the fight for trans rights and trans equality is something that I am much more passionate about and want to pursue,” he said. she declared.