On Friday, the day after transgender swimmer Leah Thomas’ historic victory in the varsity swimming championships, a new controversy stirred up the highly competitive US college sports community.
In Atlanta, Georgia, Leah Thomas won the women’s 500-yard freestyle final on Thursday night under the flag of the University of Pennsylvania.
A student who was born a man became first transgender swimmer win the varsity title by finishing the final in 4:33:24, more than one and a half seconds ahead of Emma Veyant, second in 4:34:99. place with a score of 4 min 35 sec 92.
Leah Thomas, who previously performed as a male, shares public opinion in the United States.
Among his detractors, he is considered to have an unfair physiological advantage. It is believed by her supporters that she should be allowed to compete freely as a woman.
The photo posted on Friday is eloquent and shocked social media all the way to Europe: Thomas holding his trophy in his hands, a restrained smile, right on the first step of the podium; a few yards away, the second Wayant, the third Sullivan, and the fourth Brooke Ford are huddled side by side and are all smiling on the third step in protest.
At the edge of the pools at Atlanta’s McAuley Aquatic Center on Thursday, there was a striking contrast between the merely polite applause for Thomas and the hectic crowd of three of his pursuers.
“I try to ignore it as much as possible,” the winner responded, assuring that she was “just happy to be here, trying to show the best (of myself) in the competition.” She actually posted the best time of the series with a time of 4:33:82 and she is one of the favorites for Friday’s 200 yards.
Leah Thomas, a 22-year-old student, won the women’s 500-yard freestyle race in the Ivy League on February 18, a competition between eight of America’s most prestigious universities such as Harvard, Yale, Cornell.
She received the green light from the university athletic authorities, which was not without controversy in this highly competitive environment in the United States. In February, swimming’s governing body in the United States, USA Swimming, unveiled new rules that would impose stricter testosterone thresholds on athletes, which many felt would make it harder for Leah Thomas to compete in important competitions. .
But the NCAA, which regulates college sports, said at the time that it would not enforce those tougher rules, allowing Thomas to compete in Atlanta from March 16.
At the start of the year, Leah Thomas was challenged at her varsity club. Some of his fellow athletes denounced in a letter purported benefits related to its morphology and called for tougher rules for transgender athletes.
In the opposite camp, 300 swimmers, active and retired, by contrast, took position in favor of Thomas, including Sullivan, who arrived third on Thursday.
No scientific consensus
The controversy began at the end of 2021 after the very good results of Leah Thomas, who arrived in the women’s category this season after competing in the men’s. This again raises the question of where these athletes fit between the concern for inclusion and the defense of sports fairness. After the first participation of a transgender athlete in the Tokyo Olympics, weightlifting is a headache for sports institutions.
In November, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) returned the ball to every sport, citing a lack of “scientific consensus on the role of testosterone in performance in all sports.” The controversy is also political in the United States. Several conservative states have recently passed laws to prevent young transgender girls from participating in women’s sports at school. “We will ban men from women’s competition,” former Republican President Donald Trump said at a meeting in Arizona on Jan. 15.