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UPenn Transgender Athlete Dominates Women's Swimming, Sparks Outrage After Destroying Records

(Image credit: Thomas Park/Unsplash)

A transgender swimmer who previously competed as a man at the University of Pennsylvania has sparked new outrage about fairness in women's sports after destroying women's swim records at the school and the Ivy League.

The New York Post reports Lia Thomas, 22, a senior, continued their dominant performance this season – setting numerous pool, meet and program records at a three-day event in Ohio last weekend.  

While competing in the 500-yard freestyle preliminaries and finals at the Zippy Invitational at the University of Akron, Thomas not only out-swam the competition but set several new records, according to the swim meet's results posted by the college. 

Thomas had a winning time of 4:34.06 in the finals – more than 12 seconds faster than any of her opponents. "That time is currently the best in the country in the event. Her mark was also a new program record," the university said in a statement

The trans athlete continued smashing records on Saturday with a nearly 7-second victory in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:41.93 – representing the fastest finish in the country, the school said.

In addition, Thomas also set a new program, meet, and pool record in the 1650-yard freestyle. Finished the race at 15:59.71 – more than 38 seconds ahead of her teammate Anna Kalandadze, who placed second. 

Before transitioning genders, Thomas competed for three seasons at Penn as a man named Will Thomas, according to the Post. NCAA rules require at least one year of testosterone suppression treatment in order to compete in women's events. 

Thomas told Penn Today last June she took a year off during the pandemic and will swim for the Penn women's team in her senior year.

(Swimming) is "a huge part of my life and who I am. I've been a swimmer since I was five years old," Thomas told the university newspaper. "The process of coming out as being trans and continuing to swim was a lot of uncertainty and unknown around an area that's usually really solid. Realizing I was trans threw that into question. Was I going to keep swimming? What did that look like?" 

"Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding," the trans athlete said.

Thomas is listed as swimming on Penn's men's team from 2017 to 2020. His participation is listed on the team's online roster

From 2018-2019, he was listed as Second-team All-Ivy in the 500 free, 1,000 free, and 1,650 free after reaching the 'A' final of the Ivy League Championships and finishing second overall in each of the events.

In the 2019-20 season, he competed in four of Penn's eight regular-season events, winning the 500 free against Villanova (Nov. 15), according to the online record. 

News of the trans athlete's performance has been met with strong reactions from advocates of women's sports speaking out through social media.

Former NFL star Benjamin Watson tweeted, "Men continue to find new ways to abuse women" linking to the Post article. 

Patrick Deneen, professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, also tweeted: "Let us hope that parents - especially parents of daughters - will rise up as they have against the other insanities of our age."

And the conservative user Digi tweeted: "Doesn't the fact that transgender UPenn swimmer smashed the woman's record by an unheard of 38 seconds prove that transgenders have a huge advantage over biological women in sports? Why are we acting like they are the same?"

Before Thomas competed in the Akron event last weekend, sports performance coach Linda Blade tweeted, "Well of course women's records are being smashed! Lia competed as male for first three years in #NCAA. This is not right! We need to return to #SexBasedSports! #SexNotGender to preserve fairness for female athletes."

One user replied to Blade's tweet, writing: "It's not women's records being smashed, it's women's sports."

There is evidence to suggest that some transgender female athletes — who were born as biological males — maintain unfair physiological advantages over biological female athletes.

As CBN's Faithwire previously reported

In December (of 2020), a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that, even after taking hormones for two years to suppress their testosterone levels, transgender females still maintained a 12% advantage in running, a 10% advantage in push-ups, and a 6% advantage in sit-ups. The authors of the study said those percentages could even be underestimated "because trans women will have a higher power output than {biological} women when performing an equivalent number of push-ups."

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