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‘Trans women are not a threat to women’s sport’: Lia Thomas breaks silence over attacks on her swimming success

‘The biggest change for me is that I’m happy and sophomore year where I had my best times competing with men, I was miserable’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 31 May 2022 16:44 BST
Related video: Lia Thomas becomes first transgender woman to win NCAAs
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Trans swimmer Lia Thomas has spoken out against the attacks on her success, saying that “trans women are not a threat to women’s sport”.

Ms Thomas, 22, said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America broadcast on Tuesday morning that she hopes to compete in the Olympics trials.

“I don’t need anybody’s permission to be myself,” the University of Pennsylvania swimmer said in response to claims that she has an unfair advantage.

She noted that some cisgender women are taller, have larger feet and hands, and also have more testosterone than other swimmers.

“You can’t go halfway and be like ‘I support trans people but only to a certain point’,” she told ABC.

“If you support trans women and they’ve met all the NCAA requirements, I don’t know if you can say something like that,” she added.

“Trans women are not a threat to women’s sport,” Ms Thomas said.

“There’s a lot of factors that go into a race and how well you do. The biggest change for me is that I’m happy and sophomore year where I had my best times competing with men, I was miserable,” she added. “Having that be lifted is incredibly relieving and allows me to put my all into training and racing.”

“Trans people don’t transition for athletics. We transition to be happy and authentic and to be ourselves,” Ms Thomas told Good Morning America. “Transition to get an advantage is not something that factors into our decisions.”

Ms Thomas said she was willing to end her swimming career to transition, adding that she wasn’t sure that she would be permitted to compete as a woman.

She said she became a slower swimmer after starting hormone replacement therapy.

Mayo Clinic doctor Michael Joyner told The New York Times that “you see the divergence immediately as the testosterone surges into the boys.”

“There are dramatic differences in performances,” he added.

“There are social aspects to sport, but physiology and biology underpin it,” Dr Joyner said. “Testosterone is the 800-pound gorilla.”

He told Good Morning America that “body size, hand size, foot size, and perhaps bone density,” all factor into performances, “but the main thing is the interactions of exercise training and skeletal muscle”.

“I think that evidence so far would suggest a period of a year, two, three or even four years” of hormone replacement therapy “is insufficient,” he said.

“I’m not a medical expert but there’s a lot of variation among cis female athletes. There are cis women who are tall, muscular and have more testosterone. Should that also disqualify them?” Ms Thomas responded.

“It’s been a goal of mine to swim at Olympic trials for a very long time. I would love to see that through,” she told ABC.

Sports physiologist Dr Ross Tucker told The New York Times that “Lia Thomas is the manifestation of the scientific evidence. The reduction in testosterone did not remove her biological advantage”.

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