Lia Thomas, a member of the University of Pennsylvania's women's swim team, has racked up an astounding amount of wins and records this season.
According to the university, Lia won the 200-yard freestyle at the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio, shattering Penn's record and setting the best time in the country this season. Lia also set university, meet, and pool records in the 1650-yard freestyle, winning by more than 38 seconds over the nearest competitor (another Penn swimmer).
Thomas won the 500 free by 12 seconds in a match against Princeton and Cornell, which was the fastest time in the NCAA this year. Thomas also won the 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter freestyle, and was a member of the winning 400-meter free relay team.
The only thing that causes one pause is that Lia Thomas, a transgender woman formerly known as Will Thomas, raced for the men's swim team at Penn for three years, most recently in November 2019.
Of course, the concept that a biological guy, with all the benefits of having gone through puberty as a male — such as stronger upper-body strength, greater cardiovascular ability, and so on — is competing against biological females causes a lot of anxiety. It's no coincidence that women are quicker in the water until they're approximately 13 or 14 years old. When it comes to puberty, men's timeframes are significantly faster than women's on average.
No one is ready to go public if there is a problem at Penn, the Ivy League, or the NCAA. One member of the Penn women's swim team said (without credit) that the squad is united in its opposition to Ms. Thomas' presence and blames the coach. "Pretty much everyone has complained to our coaches about not enjoying this," she told the New York Post. Our coach [Mike Schnur] simply enjoys winning.... Everyone, I believe, secretly understands it's the wrong thing to do."
Competitors don't appear to be bothered by the presence of a biological guy in a swim lane. They have not boycotted the events, nor have they lodged any complaints with the Ivy League or anybody else. The Ivy League has also offered no indication of what it plans to do to safeguard the integrity and fundamental fairness of women's sports.
The Ivy League and its member schools have all sorts of restrictions — ranging from academic eligibility to substance abuse to getting paid to play — on who can participate in sports. Why are there no meaningful restrictions on biological males competing in women’s sports?
That will very certainly become a live question in the near future. The NCAA swimming championships will be held in March. In a national tournament, having a biological guy crush biological girls is probably not a good image.
Ms. Thomas' best times as a woman at Penn are about two seconds slower than Olympian Missy Franklin's 200-meter time (about 13 seconds slower than the men's record), ten seconds slower than Olympian Katie Ledecky's 500-meter time (about 26 seconds slower than Townley Haas' men's record), and 56 seconds slower than Ms. Ledecky's 1,650-meter time. Those are impressive marks for the Ivies, which aren't known for producing Olympic swimmers.
Let’s be clear. It appears that Ms. Thomas has broken no rules. The question at hand is why have the NCAA and the Ivy League constructed a regime that allows biological males, who completed puberty as males, to compete against women?
Additionally, why is there no concerted effort among those who populate women’s sports teams in the NCAA to prevent this sort of unfair competition?
We have a good idea of what the answer is to that query. There is a basic disparity between the authority of administrators and activists and the power of female student-athletes, who may be inclined to reject competition between biological males and females. Many students, particularly those who are most immediately impacted, get athletic or need-based scholarships to attend college. This restricts their capacity to combat progressivism's whole architecture on its home field of academia.
However, there will be opposition at some point. Parents will raise objections. Fans and coaches will create a racket. Swimming World magazine has already pointed out the inequity. Others' opposition will become pervasive enough that the pretense will end, and the NCAA will be forced to take genuine action at some level of competition (maybe the championships in March, possibly the Olympics).
However, this will have no effect on the harm done to women in the meantime. It won't assist Ms. Thomas, who is merely obeying the rules, regardless of how absurd they are. It will also provide little comfort to those student-athletes who are biological females competing against biological men, or any feeling that the institutions supposed to assure fairness and equity care about either.