NCAA swim champ: Women face 'silencing and bullying' for opposing biological male competitors

Women are "being shut out of discussions," former champ Marshi Smith says.

Updated: June 22, 2022 - 11:18pm

NCAA women's swim champion Marshi Smith said swimming's global governing body FINA took a step in the right direction by banning most biological male athletes from competing against women. 

Her organization, Independent Council on Women's Sports (ICONS), is hosting events to advocate for fairness in women's sports, starting with a rally Thursday in Washington, D.C. on the 50th anniversary of the Title IX federal regulation that brought parity to women's sports.  

She told the  "Just the News, Not Noise" television program on Tuesday that it is "really heartbreaking, especially on the 50th anniversary" to see Title IX being used by the Biden administration to allow biological males to compete against women. 

Smith said Title IX allowed her to receive a full swimming scholarship to the University of Arizona, where she was repeatedly an All-American.

Women are "being shut out of discussions with our schools and ... sports governing bodies," Smith said.

She led a coalition of more than 40 University of Arizona swimming alumni in a letter in March demanding the NCAA Board of Governors "protect our women athletes."

The letter came in response to University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a biologically male student-athlete who dominated women's swim competitions competing as a transgender female.

"I think the first step is for the majority of people who do believe in fairness for our girls and women to come forward. You know, there's been a lot of silencing and bullying to try and keep those opinions hushed and quiet," Smith told hosts John Solomon and Amanda Head.

FINA will now require male-to-female transgender athletes to have transitioned before the age of 12 and not experienced male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2. This disqualifies Thomas, who competed for two years as a man in male college swimming before spending a year on testosterone blockers to meet NCAA competition requirements.

FINA's decision was "a move in the right direction," Smith said. 

"Does it ban all males from women's sports? No, but it's certainly an advancement and better than the ruling that allowed Lia Thomas to compete this past year," she said.

"Women are really going to have to fight sport for sport. There are other sports... that are taking an opposite stance and moving towards the direction of self-identification over biology. So we will continue having to fight for each sport."

After her Washington, D.C., rally, Smith will head to Las Vegas for the first-ever ICONS conference next week. 

She said she hopes the gathering will "create a network of women that have this purpose in mind: to band together in order to make a plan to move forward in discussing and having the conversations at the tables of these sports governing bodies."

"We need as much support as we can get."