Swimming: a new scandal in the US after the historic victory of a transgender swimmer

In Atlanta, Georgia, Leah Thomas won the women’s final of the 500-yard freestyle (about 457 meters) on Thursday night under the flag of the University of Pennsylvania. A male student became the first transgender swimmer to win a varsity title, finishing in the final in 4:33:24, more than a second and a half ahead of Emma Veyant, who placed second in 4:34:99.

Erica Sullivan, silver medalist in the 1500m at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, placed third in 4:35:92. Leah Thomas, who previously performed as a man, shares public opinion in the States. Critics believe that she has an unfair physiological advantage. , while supporters believe she should be allowed to compete freely as a woman.

podium photo


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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 delirious crowd for his three pursuers.

I try to ignore it as much as possible“, the winner reacted, assuring that he would”just happy to be here trying to show my best in the competitionIn fact, she set the fastest time of the series with a time of 4:33:82, and on Friday she is one of the favorites in the 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.

Testosterone Threshold

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 they 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 in the letter denounced the alleged benefits associated with his morphology and asked 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) passed the ball to each sport, pointing out the 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 competitions“, former Republican President Donald Trump said during a rally in Arizona on January 15.


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