In New Interview, Lia Thomas Says ‘Trans Women Competing … Doesn’t Threaten Women’s Sports’

Lia Thomas is breaking her silence on her participation in women’s swimming.

The University of Pennsylvania swimmer, who was the first transgender swimmer to win an NCAA championship, gave an on-air interview to ABC News and ESPN, Thomas’ first comments since competing in March.

With the exception of the on-deck TV interview after winning the NCAA championship in the 500 freestyle, Lia Thomas hadn’t spoken to any media outlet since Sports Illustrated, prior to the NCAA Championships. Thomas declined to attend the press conference following her victory, which was mandatory for all event winners, according to the NCAA.

Thomas’ participation generated a lot of controversy with many believing her participation was not fair to women after Thomas competed on the Penn men’s team for three years before transitioning.

However, Thomas underwent the NCAA-mandated year of hormone therapy and followed every NCAA rule.

“Trans women competing in women’s sports does not threaten women’s sports as a whole,” Thomas told ABC News and ESPN. “Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes. The NCAA rules regarding trans women competing in women’s sports have been around for 10-plus years. And we haven’t seen any massive wave of trans women dominating.”

Thomas, however, did dominate in the 500 freestyle. Part of the response to Thomas’ participation also came from the fear of her taking qualifying spots or scholarship spots away from women.

Lia Thomas responded to that as well as the idea of putting transgender swimmers in a different competitive category.

“It’s not taking away opportunities from cis women, really. Trans women are women, so it’s still a woman who is getting that scholarship or that opportunity. If you say, like, you can compete, but you can’t score or you’re in an extra lane nine, that’s very othering towards trans people,” Thomas said in the interview. “And it is not offering them the same level of respect and opportunity to play and to compete.”

She also addressed critics who believed she transitioned to become a champion.

“The biggest misconception, I think, is the reason I transitioned,” Lia Thomas told ABC News and ESPN. “People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage, so she could win.’ I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself. … I’ve been able to do the sport that I love as my authentic self.”

Thomas told ABC News she plans to continue swimming through the Olympic trials in 2024, though she would have to have followed USA Swimming’s stricter hormone policy.

“I intend to keep swimming,” Thomas said on the on-air interview. “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.”

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