The editor of Swimming World magazine has argued that transgender University of Pennsylvania record-breaker Lia Thomas has a similar unfair advantage over her female competitors as doped athletes.
In an op-ed published on Sunday, Editor-in-Chief John Lohn slammed the NCAA’s decision to allow Thomas to compete in women’s events — arguing the current requirements aren’t “nearly stringent enough to create a level playing field” between her and her competitors.
Thomas is eligible — as per the rules set out by the NCAA — to compete in women’s collegiate events after undergoing the required one-year of testosterone suppressant use.
The 22-year-old, who competed with the Penn’s men’s swim team for three years prior to coming out as transgender in 2019, has already broken several Penn records so far this season.
“Despite the hormone suppressants she has taken, in accordance with NCAA guidelines, Thomas’ male-puberty advantage has not been rolled back an adequate amount,” Lohn wrote.
“The fact is, for nearly 20 years, she built muscle and benefited from the testosterone naturally produced by her body. That strength does not disappear overnight, nor with a year’s worth of suppressants.”
The editor-in-chief argued that the NCAA needed to change its rules — and that Thomas needed to acknowledge she has an advantage over her competitors.
“The suppressants she has taken account for an approximate 2 percent to 3 percent change. The time difference between male and female swimming records is roughly 11 percent,” he said.
Lohn argued that Thomas “enjoys similar advantages” to athletes in the past who have used drugs to enhance their performances.
He likened the situation to the “rampant doping” seen in the ’70s and ’80s when German swimmers Kornelia Ender and Kristin Otto, who have long been suspected of doping, were winning Olympic gold medals and titles.
“Although positive tests were not typically returned, it didn’t take a genius to recognize that doping was at play. Administrators and referees swallowed their words, afraid of being branded for taking an accusatory stance,” Lohn said.
“The NCAA, it can be argued, has taken that same approach via its lax requirements related to transgender females.”
He insisted that he wasn’t calling Thomas a “doper.”
“What we are stating is this: The effects of being born a biological male, as they relate to the sport of swimming, offer Thomas a clear-cut edge over the biological females against whom she is competing. She is stronger. It is that simple. And this strength is beneficial to her stroke, on turns and to her endurance. Doping has the same effect,” Lohn said.
It comes after a group of 10 Penn parents sent a letter to the NCAA earlier this month calling for changes to the rules.
An anonymous teammate also previously criticized Thomas’ eligibility to compete on the women’s team to the website OutKick, arguing she has an unfair advantage.
“Pretty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this,” the female swimmer told the site. “Our coach just really likes winning. He’s like most coaches. I think secretly everyone just knows it’s the wrong thing to do.”
Thomas told the SwimSwam podcast last week that her teammates and coaches treat her “like any other member of the women’s team” and have been very supportive of her during transition.
Since transitioning, Thomas has set Penn records for the 200-meter freestyle, 500-meter freestyle and 1650-meter freestyle.
In her 1650-meter freestyle win, she beat second place finisher and teammate Anna Kalandadze by more than 38 seconds.
“I’m very proud of my times and my ability to keep swimming and continue competing and they’re suited up times and I’m happy with them and my coaches are happy with them,” Thomas said in the interview. “And that’s what matters to me.”