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#pounditSunday, October 2, 2022

Michael Phelps seems to have issue with Lia Thomas swimming with women

Michael Phelps

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas has been the subject of some polarizing debates in recent months, and the most decorated Olympian of all time recently shared some of his thoughts on her situation.

Thomas, who is transgender, has been rewriting the record books while swimming for Penn’s women’s team. She has been competing on the women’s team despite swimming for the men’s team the previous three years. She last swam on the men’s team as Will Thomas in 2019 and was a second-team all conference swimmer. Michael Phelps was asked about Thomas during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour recently. The 23-time gold medalist repeatedly spoke about the sport needing to maintain a level playing field and brought up the issue of doping.

“I think this leads back to the organizing committees again,” Phelps said, as transcribed by Ryan Glasspiegel of the New York Post. “Because it has to be a level playing field. That’s something that we all need. Because that’s what sports are. For me, I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

NCAA rules state that transgender athletes can compete as women if they have undergone testosterone suppression for a year. There’s no question Thomas’ presence on the women’s team has disrupted the level playing field, regardless of how you feel about the current rules. Thomas has already challenged women’s records that were previously set by Olympic gold medalists.

Phelps said he supports the transgender community but continued to advocate for an “even playing field.”

“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 added. “I don’t know what it looks like in the future. It’s hard. It’s very complicated and this is my sport, this has been my sport my whole entire career, and honestly the one thing I would love is everybody being able to compete on an even playing field.”

No Penn swimmers have complained about situation with Thomas publicly, but some parents of athletes sent a letter to the NCAA last month. Anonymous members of the Penn women’s swimming team also indicated they are not happy with Thomas being allowed to compete.

The NCAA may have to address the situation further at some point. Pressure from influential people like Phelps could create more urgency.

Photo: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

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