Male-born UPenn swimmer, Lia Thomas has been eliminated from the NCAA Woman of the Year awards.
The transgender athlete who controversially won the women’s NCAA championship 500m freestyle this year was knocked out of the contest after The Ivy League opted to have Columbian fencer, Sylvie Binder from New York as their final candidate.
The winner will be announced at an NCAA event in San Antonio, Texas in January 2023.
Upenn’s decision to suggest Thomas as a candidate for the award sparked outrage among the public and her teammates as many suggested the male-born athlete had already robbed biological females of numerous wins in her sport.
After winning gold in foil, Sylvie Binder anchored Team USA's gold medal victory over Russia at the Cadet Worlds! pic.twitter.com/ac7dSIzF2Y
— USA Fencing (@USAFencing) April 5, 2016
According to the NCAA’s website, its Woman of the Year program “was established in 1991 and honors the academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service and leadership of graduating female college athletes from all three divisions.”
Each college was allowed two nominees, but under woke NCAA rules, at least one of the two had to be from a minority group or international student.
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While it clearly indicates the entries must be “female”, Thomas, 22, was born a man and went through male puberty. According to reports, the strapping 6ft swimming star did not begin to transition from male to female until she was around 19 years old.
Also nominated was Russian tennis player, Luliia Bryzgalova who, along with Thomas and Binder, was one of the eight Ivy League athletes to have been nominated. 577 student candidates were put forward in total by different colleges.
Binder was reportedly the NCAA’s Women’s Foil Champion in 2019 and came fifth in the Ivy League championships this year.
After the controversy surrounding Thomas’ wins against biological females, including his championship victory in March, international swimming body FINA, which also governs Olympic swimming, ruled that biological males could not enter official women’s competitions.
It did, however, rule that biological men could enter women’s competitions: “provided they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 [which marks the start of physical development], or before age 12, whichever is later“.
In June, the body also announced its plan to create an “open” category for transexual athletes whose biological sex is different to the sex they now identify as.
The rules do not apply to college sport and each institution is able to make up its own mind regarding transgender athletes.
According to Thomas’ distraught team members, Upenn stated that her being part of the swim team was “non-negotiable”:
“They’ve made it pretty clear, if you speak up about it, your life will be over in some way, you’ll be blasted all over the internet as a “transphobe,” … you’ll never be able to get a job,” said an anonymous teammate last month.
Another girl said the college wanted to keep Thomas on the team because she helped them win more races. The team was 27th in the league in 2019, yet since Thomas has been on the team they’ve bumped up to 20th:
“Lia obviously helps us do better. She is swimming really fast. Her performance helps the UPenn swim team. The feeling of winning doesn’t feel as good anymore because it feels tainted,” said the anonymous student athlete.
Meanwhile, Thomas said she hopes to swim for the USA in the women’s Olympic races one day. She said:
“I don’t need anybody’s permission to be myself, I intend to keep swimming … It’s been a goal of mine to swim at Olympic trials for a very long time, and I would love to see that through.”
She went on to say that anyone who doesn’t support her plight to keep racing against women is a “transphobe”:
“You can’t go halfway and be like, “I support trans people but only to a certain point. If you support transwomen and they’ve met all the NCAA requirements, I don’t know if you can say something like that,” she added.
“Trans women are not a threat to women’s sport.”