Olympians and swim champs: 'NCAA has successfully failed everyone'

The group accused the NCAA of hoping "appease everyone by allowing Lia Thomas to compete directly with women."
Transgender woman Lia Thomas (L) of the University of Pennsylvania stands on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle as other medalists (L-R) Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde pose for a photo at the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championship on March 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Women swimmers from the University of Arizona wrote a letter to NCAA stating that the collegiate athletic organization has "successfully failed everyone" and demanding "immediate action" to protect women athletes.

"Do we have a voice?" opens the letter signed by nearly 40 retired swimmers including Olympians and NCAA champions.

"It’s hard to express the anguish the women’s swim community has experienced," the group said in their letter which was published in Swimming World Magazine after transgender swimmer Lia Thomas became an NCAA champion last month after winning the 500-yard freestyle.

The women pointed out that according to Duke’s Center for Sports Law and Policy, 'there is an average 10-12% performance gap between elite males and elite females.'"

In 2010, the international swimming federation banned "high tech performance swim suits," the women noted, adding that this year, "the body inside the suit is what raises cause for concern."

The group accused the NCAA of hoping "appease everyone by allowing Lia Thomas to compete directly with women."

The organization allowed Thomas to begin competing as a woman in 2021, after taking testosterone blockers for a year.

"Instead, the NCAA has successfully failed everyone," the Arizona swimmers stated. "A target was placed on the back of a trans athlete subjecting this person to devastating national outcry and humiliation. This swimmer’s lone points for Penn this March catapulted a team to a top-20 program in the country after failing to score a single point last year."

Women athletes competing against Thomas "were forced to swim in unfair direct competition therefore eliminating all integrity of the entire championship meet," they said.

"This is not equality. Women’s standings, titles, records, and scholarships are suddenly at risk again," they wrote.

The women mentioned that Iszac Henig, a transgender male athlete from Yale who competed as a woman, illustrated how biological women are at a disadvantage to men. Henig placed fifth competing against women and would not have qualified for the men's swimming race. 

"A trans athlete could compete in the meet that aligns with birth gender such as Henig did," the women said, pointing to possible alternatives to someone like Thomas competing against biological women. "Trans specific heats with separate awards categories and scoring was another alternative."

"Do we have a voice? The people responsible for protecting women’s swimming should swiftly rectify the guidelines," the group called out the NCAA. "The women from the University of Arizona will not quietly stand down while our victories and accomplishments float away."

The dozens of women concluded the letter by saying they are "eager and willing to discuss directly with the NCAA potential steps it can implement to create new solutions for the expanding athletic family."