University of Pennsylvania’s transgender athlete Lia Thomas predictably smashed the competition in the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship, and 59-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova thinks she should have an “asterisk” next to her name.
Thomas, a biological male, who ranked #462 nationally while competing as a male swimmer for three years prior to transitioning, smoked top female competitors by 1.75 seconds in the 500-yard free event on Thursday to take the title.
“But right now, the rules are what they are. Maybe put an asterisk there, if she starts breaking records left and right,” Navratilova said about UPenn swimmer.
Thomas’ participation in collegiate women’s swimming events has sparked controversy in the women’s athletic community, after she dominated the Ivy League season with record-breaking swims.
“The very simple answer is that I’m not a man,” she said about why she did not continue to compete with the men’s team. “I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets.”
But according to Navratilova, 65, Thomas doesn’t belong in the women’s category, but should be allowed to swim competitively.
“It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning ever,” the tennis legend explained. “But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men.”
The NCAA recently updated their transgender athlete policy to defer to the sport’s governing body. USA Swimming released updated guidelines that require swimmers to maintain testosterone levels within a certain range for 36-months. Despite Thomas being months short, the rule change does not apply to the 2021-2022 season.
Navratilova has a clear-cut solution for protecting women’s sports. She suggested that the NCAA create “an open category” that would include biological men, transgendered men on testosterone, and transgender women taking estrogen, and a separate category for biological females to compete in exclusively.