Caitlyn Jenner called out the NCAA ahead of a review of its policy on transgender athletes, saying Wednesday that the collegiate sports authority needs to “stop this right now” as Ivy League swimmer Lia Thomas smashes women’s records.
“We need to protect women’s sports, and the NCAA needs to make the right decision tomorrow, and I think that’s probably to stop this right now, rethink it,” Ms. Jenner said on Fox News.
Ms. Jenner, who as Bruce Jenner won gold in the men’s decathlon at the 1976 Olympics, transitioned to female in 2015.
One of the world’s most well-known transgender women, the former-athlete-turned-reality-television-star weighed in a day before the NCAA Board of Governors undertakes a review of its rules on transgender athletes.
Under the NCAA rules, a male-to-female transgender athlete may compete on the women’s side after completing a year of hormone-suppression treatment, a standard that critics describe as insufficient to erase the male physical advantage.
Ms. Jenner said she was perplexed as to why the 22-year-old Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania senior, chose to swim against women after three years on the men’s team, saying it was bad for both the transgender community and women’s sports.
“It’s unfortunate that this is happening. I don’t know why she’s doing it,” Ms. Jenner said. “She knows that when she’s swimming, she’s beating the competition by two laps. She was born a biological boy, she was raised a biological boy. Her cardiovascular system is bigger. Her respiratory system is bigger. Her hands are bigger. She can swim faster. That’s a known.”
In addition, “I feel sorry for the other athletes that are out there, especially at Penn or anybody she’s competing against, because in the woke world, you’ve got to say, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is great,’ and on and on and on,” Ms. Jenner said. “No, it’s not.”
The Penn swimmer holds the NCAA’s fastest women’s times this year in both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, although she has not won every race. At a Jan. 8 meet, for example, she lost the 100 to Yale’s Izzi Henig, a female-to-male transgender swimmer who has chosen to remain on the women’s team.
Ms. Jenner said that with transitioning comes a certain responsibility.
“First of all, I respect her decision to live her life authentically, 100%, but that also comes with responsibility and some integrity. I don’t know why she’s doing this,” she said.
The NCAA has yet to weigh in on the Thomas situation despite the growing concerns raised by prominent athletes, coaches and defenders of women’s sports.
Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps said in a CNN interview last week that sports organizations need to ensure “a level playing field,” while the American Swimming Coaches Association urged the NCAA to update its policies.
“The current NCAA policy regarding when transgender females can compete in the women’s category can be unfair to cisgender females and needs to be reviewed and changed in a transparent manner,” said the association in a Saturday statement.
The Ivy League, Penn and Harvard have issued statements in support of Thomas and transgender participation in sports.
“The Ivy League reaffirms its unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form,” said the league.
The statement emphasized that “Lia Thomas has met or exceeded all NCAA protocols over the past two years for a transgender female student-athlete to compete on a women’s team.”
Jacob Calvin Meyer contributed to this report.