Sixteen swimmers at the University of Pennsylvania sent an anonymous letter to Ivy League and college officials on Thursday expressing their belief that transgender teammate Lia Thomas should not be allowed to compete due to physical advantages, The Washington Post reported.
Thomas, who previously competed on the men’s team for three seasons, is having a breakout year.
The Post reported that the letter was sent on behalf of the group by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who won Olympic gold in 1984 as a swimmer and now heads an advocacy organization for women’s sports. Hogshead-Makar reportedly sent the letter so the swimmers would not face retaliation.
“Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female,” part of the letter read, per the Post. “If she were to be eligible to compete against us, she could now break Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete.”
The Post also reported that the letter discouraged the Ivy League and the school from taking legal action against the NCAA for its recently updated guidelines on transgender athlete competition, which adopted a “sport-by-sport approach to transgender participation that preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.” NCAA policies approved in January also allow sports to defer to rules set by governing bodies, such as USA Swimming, which just released its own new policies on transgender athletes.
The NCAA has announced that it will review those guidelines later this month.
The new USA Swimming policy for elite swimmers, including as at the NCAA level, will now require “evidence that the prior physical development of the athlete as a male, as mitigated by any medical intervention, does not give the athlete a competitive advantage over the athlete’s cisgender female competitors.”
Additionally, elite transgender swimmers must maintain testosterone levels below 5 nanomoles per liter of blood for at least 36 months before competing in women’s events.
The NCAA could meet prior to the swimming championships in March to consider adopting these rules, according to The New York Times. Possible changes to the existing rules come as Thomas has emerged this season as a contender for the Ivy League and NCAA championships.