- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Some University of Pennsylvania swimmers reportedly considered boycotting their final home meet to protest transgender teammate Lia Thomas, but nixed the idea over fears of losing their championship slots or being labeled transphobic.

The female athletes, who have watched as Thomas smashes freestyle records after switching from the men’s team last year to the women’s team, wanted to make “some sort of statement” to protest NCAA rules allowing male-born swimmers to compete against women after just one year of testosterone suppression.

“They’ve been ignored by both Penn and the NCAA, and there is a feeling among some of the girls that they should make some sort of statement, seize the opportunity while they have a spotlight on them to make their feelings about the issue known,” a source close to the team told the [U.K.] DailyMail.com.

Neither the NCAA nor Penn Athletics has addressed publicly the mounting concerns over the 22-year-old Thomas’ dominance, prompting fears among the athletes that a protest would put at risk their participation in the Ivy League Championships.

“Knowing they do not have backing from the school or NCAA, they’re reluctant to jeopardize their opportunity to make the elite Ivy League squad,” according to the DailyMail.com source.

The final home meet of the season is scheduled for Jan. 8 at Sheerr Pool in Philadelphia.

The Ivy League Championships are slated for Feb. 23-26 at Harvard, where 17 of the 41 team members will reportedly compete.

Thomas holds the NCAA’s best times for women this year in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, and has broken program, meet and pool records in multiple events during the 2021-22 season, her first on the women’s team after competing for three years on the men’s side.

One parent told the outlet that the swimmers were also worried about the political fallout from challenging a transgender athlete.

“If it were me, I’d step up with a sign on my chest stating something like – ‘NCAA - Speak up. We need answers,’” said the parent. “But it’s possible the swimmers may end up doing nothing because they are so afraid to be perceived as transphobic.”

Two anonymous Penn female swimmers told OutKick earlier this month that their teammates were discouraged over what they described as Thomas’s advantages against biological women. One athlete said that the university had asked the team not to speak to the press.

“Well, obviously she’s No. 1 in the country because she’s at a clear physical advantage after having gone through male puberty and getting to train with testosterone for years,” OutKick’s source said. “Of course you’re No. 1 in the country when you’re beating a bunch of females. That’s not something to brag about.”

OutKick said it granted the swimmers anonymity “due to what is viewed as threats from the university, activists, and the political climate.”

Thomas told SwimSwam that she has tried to ignore the public pushback, saying, “I just don’t engage with it,” but said that her teammates have been supportive.

“I’m very proud of my times and my ability to keep swimming and continue competing and they’re suited up times and I’m happy with them and my coaches are happy with them, and that’s what matters to me,” Thomas said in the Dec. 8 interview.

Outsports blamed the criticism on “anti-trans panic,” while LGBTQ Nation said Thomas was the victim of a “conservative backlash.”

Another source predicted that fans at the next meet would sit on their hands when and if Thomas wins.

“It’ll be like the last couple meets. Lia will finish and nobody will give a s—. Then when the first biological female finishes, there will be a huge eruption of applause,” the source told the DailyMail.com.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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