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New Report Claims Data Shows Lia Thomas Does Not Have An Unfair Advantage Over Her Competitors

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New Report Claims Data Shows Lia Thomas Does Not Have An Unfair Advantage Over Her Competitors

Last week Lia Thomas became the first openly transgender athlete to win a US national college swimming championship.

Thomas, who swam for the University of Pennsylvania's men's team for three years before starting hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in 2019, won first place in women's 500-yard freestyle at the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) first division swimming championship.

Her victory has sparked a fierce debate over trans women in sport. While some have expressed their support for Thomas, others have criticised the decision to allow her to compete.

Thomas' victory has proved controversial (Image: PA)
Thomas' victory has proved controversial (Image: PA)

Protesters against Thomas' inclusion in the race have argued that her years of living as a man have given her an unfair advantage over her competitors. Florida governor Ron DeSantis has refused to acknowledge Thomas as champion, instead naming runner-up Emma Weyant as the "rightful winner" of the race.

However, a new report released by The Independent claims that statistics show there is little evidence that Thomas has performed differently to other women in her field.

The report claims that Thomas' record in the NCAA proves her times are within the expected range of women's competition.

Thomas won the women's 500-yard freestyle race in 4m 33.24s, came fifth in the 200-yard race, with 1m 43.40s, and eighth in the 100-yard race with 48.40s.


According to the report, Thomas' 500-yard time makes her the 15th fastest college swimmer in history, around nine seconds behind Katie Ledecky's all-time record set in 2017.

Overall, 27 records were broken during the NCAA meet. None of the new records were set by Thomas, with 18 being broken by Kate Douglass of the University of Virginia.

When compared to a dataset of swim times for all top 8 NCAA women's finishers over the last six years of competition, Thomas' time in the 500-yard freestyle is only the eighth fastest out of 56.


In the 100-yard race, her time is 55th out of 56 according to the data, while her time in the 200-yard race is 31st out of 56.

Critics have argued that Thomas has been able to improve her position in races since transitioning, pointing to her previous record in male competition.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Olympic gold medalist swimmer, previously wrote that Thomas was "never in the category of standout athlete".


Thomas had previously ranked 554th in the men's 200-yard freestyle, 65th in the 500-yard freestyle, and 32nd in the 1650-yard freestyle.

The report claims those comparison may be "unfair", suggesting that HRT - which involves taking supplements of estrogen or testosterone to bring a trans person's hormones in line with that of a cisgender (or non-transgender) person - appear to have negatively affected Thomas' capacity over long distances.

In men's races, Thomas' best events were the 1,000-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle, whereas at this year's NCAA championship she did not compete in those races.

The report also claims that in the last season where Thomas competed in men's events, she came in ninth in the 1,000-yard freestyle and 29th in the 1,650-yard freestyle.


"Lia Thomas was an elite and competitive swimmer while on the men's team at the University of Pennsylvania," said former NCAA swimmer Kyle Sockwell.

"[The 1650 yard] event would have had Lia in the top 30-34 in the country and right on the bubble of making NCAAs."

Schuyler Bailar, the first openly trans swimmer in the NCAA men's first division and a friend of Thomas, added: "Lia was absolutely a standout athlete when she was competing on the men's team... it is far from abnormal or unlikely for an athlete to go from being ranked 11th to 1st in the span of a few years."

Featured Image Credit: PA Images

Topics: swimming, Lia Thomas

Rory O'Callaghan
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