Transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas won the 500-yard race in the NCAA Championships on Thursday, defeating University of Virginia freshman Emma Weyant by 1.75 seconds.
Thomas’ time in the race was 4:33:24.
The New York Post reports that prior to competing as a woman, Thomas swam for three years at the university on the men’s team before transitioning and sat out a year to undergo testosterone suppression treatment.
Since she began swimming on the women’s team, Thomas has left considerable controversy in her wake, with many questioning whether it is fair to allow an athlete who was born a biological male to compete against biological women.
The NCAA issued new regulations about transgender athletes this season, essentially leaving it up to individual sports to decide eligibility.
Since Thanksgiving, Thomas’ swimming has suggested she had a shot at winning national titles, the Post reports. In February, she won the Ivy League title in the 500-yard and set a record at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool.
Tennis great Martina Navratilova told NewsNation on Wednesday that wins by transgender swimmers like Thomas should have “an asterisk” next to them because the NCAA “rules are not correct.”
“It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning, ever,” Navratilova said. “But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men. You try to keep it as close as possible to what it would have been had you been born in the female biological body in the first place.”
LGBTQ+ outlet PinkNews tweeted Thursday that transgender TV personality “Caitlyn Jenner launches yet another disgraceful attack on trans athletes without a hint of irony,” in response to an interview Jenner gave to the Daily Mail about transgender athletes.
Jenner tweeted back, “No, I just had the balls to stand up for women and girls in sports.”
According to Jenner, biological women and girls should not compete against transgender females.
The American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy group, tweeted Thursday that second place finisher Weyant was “the true winner” of the women’s 500-yard race.
Weighing in on the controversy, U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps said Thomas’ recent success is “complicated.”
“I believe that we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin, but I think sports should all be played on an even playing field,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour late last week.
Phelps added that he’s not sure what an “even playing field” should look like.
The Post reports Thomas will also compete in the 200-yard and 100-yard races.
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