NBC News cited “folks” who claim “there is very little scientific evidence” to indicate transgender female athletes such as University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas have an advantage over competitors who were born a woman.
“Hallie Jackson NOW,” a program on the Peacock Network’s streaming service hosted by NBC News’ senior Washington correspondent, enlisted NBC Out reporter Jo Yurcaba on Friday to discuss the controversy surrounding Thomas, who has drawn scrutiny from those questioning whether transgender women should compete against biological females.
“There are a few different arguments happening here. You’ve got an argument about fairness, there are people who oppose trans women competing in women’s sports because they say it’s unfair to cisgender women who aren’t trans, most of whom don’t receive the athletic advantages of higher testosterone levels during puberty,” Yurcaba said. “Though, then you have folks who say there is very little scientific evidence that shows those advantages carry over for trans women after transition.”
The reporter for NBC Out continued to explain that an argument for “fairness and human rights” exists on both sides.
“Trans advocates say that this question of inclusion is about more than just sports, because we’re still seeing these efforts at the state level to ban trans people from using the bathrooms of their gender, so they say this debate is really part of a larger conversation about whether trans people can participate in certain aspects of society at all,” Yurcaba said.
Thomas won the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle and finished in fifth place in the 100-yard freestyle during the school’s tri-meet with Yale and Dartmouth over the weekend. NCAA rules state that a trans woman can’t compete with women until after undergoing testosterone suppression treatment for a year.
“Lia had completed two and a half years by the time she began competing,” Yurcaba said. “The University of Pennsylvania pointed out that she’s exceeded NCAA protocols here.”
Thomas finished about two seconds ahead of her opponents with a time of 1:48.73 in the 200 freestyle. She missed out on setting an NCAA record held by Olympian Missy Franklin, who finished the event in 1:39.10 in 2015. Thomas wasn’t as dominant as she was at the Zippy Invitational at Akron last month.
Thomas narrowly won the 500 freestyle, according to The Daily Mail.
She faced a real challenge in the 100 freestyle from Yale’s Iszac Henig, who is transitioning from female to male. Henig had a time of 49.57 seconds, with Thomas finishing behind him with a time of 52.84 seconds.
Thomas received support from the Ivy League and Penn last week.
“Over the past several years, Lia and the University of Pennsylvania worked with the NCAA to follow all of the appropriate protocols in order to comply with the NCAA policy on transgender athlete participation and compete on the Penn women’s swimming and diving team. The Ivy League has adopted and applies the same NCAA policy,” the conference said in a statement Thursday.
“The Ivy League reaffirms its unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form,” the statement continued. “The league welcomes her participation in the sport of women’s swimming and diving and looks forward to celebrating the success of all of our student-athletes throughout the season.”