Dave Salo Calls NCAA Transgender Policy “An Assault On Women’s Sports”

The current transgender policies in place in the NCAA have been a hot-button issue of late, with University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a trans woman, putting up some of the top times in the country after previously competing as a male.

Dave Salo, the longtime head coach of the University of Southern California who retired from that position in 2020, recently weighed in on the issue in an interview with The Washington Times, calling the policy “an assault on women’s sports.”

The NCAA’s transgender policy allows trans women to compete on a women’s team if they’ve completed a minimum of one year of testosterone suppression treatment. Thomas has been undergoing treatment for the last two and a half years.

Salo says the current policy “compromises all the work that has been done by women athletes.”

“I don’t think it’s fair at all,” Salo told The Washington Times. “I think it really compromises the gains that have been made in women’s sports for the last 30 years. It’s going backwards. I think the NCAA and IOC have not really looked at the policy that directs this question.”

Also speaking to The Washington Times on the issue was Jeri Shanteau, an 11-time All-American at Auburn that won three NCAA team titles with the Tigers in the mid-2000s.

“There is an injustice being done right now for women competing in sports, specifically and clearly swimming,” Shanteau said.

“It is very concerning as a former female athlete to watch people who have the ability to protect women’s sports and fairness and safety stand by and do nothing. It is negligent.”

Thomas’ story is well documented at this point. She swam for three years on the men’s team at Penn, with that third season (2019-20) coming while in the midst of transitioning into becoming a female.

The Ivy League canceled its entire 2020-21 season due to the pandemic, and Thomas returned to the pool this fall on the women’s team, largely dominating her competition.

With all of the NCAA’s mid-season invitational meets wrapping up in early December, meaning each school has had the opportunity to race in a relatively rested, suited environment, Thomas owns the top time in the country in the women’s 200 freestyle (1:41.93) and 500 freestyle (4:34.06), and ranks sixth in the 1650 free (15:59.71).

“I know how hard the women have worked,” Salo said, referring to the effort put in by the female swimmers he’s coached in general. “They’ve worked on par with men in terms of their effort, but they can never match what men could do in the weight room or in the pool.”

Salo has more than 40 years of coaching experience in swimming, including serving as an assistant coach on the U.S. team at the Olympics, and most recently, led the American team at the 2021 Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi. He spent 14 seasons as the head coach at USC, and is now the head coach emeritus at Irvine Novaquatics.

He felt the need to speak out on the issue to provide a voice for those who fear they will receive public backlash if they do so.

“One of the concerns that I have is that under the circumstances of wokeism, those who are most affected are the most silent. They’re afraid to speak out. They know it’s unfair.

“I’m 63. I’m at nearly the end of my career in coaching, and I can’t be canceled. So I can speak out against what I think is an assault on women’s sports.”

Shanteau, 37, echoed that sentiment, telling The Washington Post that she was “here to speak up for the women today that are being completely discriminated against and do not have a voice, cannot have a voice in our social climate.”

Salo and Shanteau are just the latest to let their displeasure with the policy that allows Thomas to compete in the women’s division.

Earlier this month, a USA Swimming official resigned after 30 years in protest of the issue, while a group of UPenn parents sent a letter directly to the NCAA demanding changes be made.

On December 16, celebrity Doctor Mehmet Oz (“Doctor Oz”) said that “we have to have compassion” for transgender adults, citing an increase in suicide rates among the group.

Oz, a Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, was reportedly asked about Thomas while hosting a private lunch in New York City.

Regarding the issue of a trans woman competing in women’s athletics, he added: “But then you layer on top of the changes to our society that hurt other people in an effort to protect one group of people, that’s not fair. That’s not fair,.

“Feminists have very eloquently fought for the ability to have women’s sports be on equal (footing) as men’s sports, and this takes away that ability,” he said, adding, “I would argue that what I just said can’t be said – I definitely couldn’t have said it on [The Dr. Oz Show] – and you need to be able to say those things.”

In the latest development regarding Thomas, the UPenn women considered boycotting their January 8 meet in protest of the NCAA’s policy, though they ultimately decided against it, according to The Daily Mail.

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7 months ago

There is a short term solution. Use the example of SIU trans swimmer Natalie Fahey who blew away the competition in the 500 free in the 2019 Missouri Valley Champs (YouTube). She swam in the finals, but her coach kept her off the scoring roster. Problem solved. If she swims AR times let the lawyers and the grand poohbas of the NCAA et al figure it out. Lia swims, women swimmers protected for now, case closed until a cooler heads prevail and a final solution is reached.

F Corbella
7 months ago

This whole issue isn’t about transgenderism it’s about keeping sport, particularly women’s sport fair.

7 months ago

Men’s “division” in swimming and in any sport is actually an Open section for any human.
Woman’s division on the other hand is a protected division for females only.

7 months ago

Why dont they simply establish a new division for trans athlete’s and then there is equality.

Reply to  Matt
7 months ago

Although there has been an increase in visibility and inclusion efforts this is less than 1 percent of the population. From that small pool you need to find people who want to compete in sports and even harder a sport where your half naked that not a lot of people do to start with.

You won’t have people to compete with unless they get trans people from all over the world to have some kind of version of the gay games.

Thomas F Tabor
7 months ago

It looks like it’s time to create a men’s, women’s and a transgender divisions in sports. Everyone is entitled to compete and it’s time for the cowardly NCAA administration to fix this, like they are paid to do. As a father with a daughter it’s not fair to the girls and women who have to compete with trans girl/women. I applaud Lia for her courage for what she is going through and would only want her to be treated honorably and fairly but this isn’t fair for the female athletes.

7 months ago

I think all women swimmers should boycott women competition. We love all our transgenders but what is fair is fair. The body is still what it is no one can change that, competing with women should not be allowed at all.

Ex swimmer
7 months ago

This isn Lia’s fault at all and quite frankly I feel terrible for her and all the backlash she’s receiving. It’s the lazy NCAAs fault for this mess. They thought for all of two seconds on this “rule” and decided a year on hormone suppressing drugs would suffice as the main criteria. It’s completely unfair to bio women and anyone with any sort of common sense knows this. Ncaa needs to speak up now before the season gets rolling again and stop letting Lia take the brunt of this.

Reply to  Ex swimmer
7 months ago

Completely agree. NCAA 100% enabled this unfairness to happen and 100% NCAA’s responsibility to fix it and hopefully soon. Lia is currently playing by the rules.

Judy Amen
7 months ago

Dave Salo states it accurately – women have come so far in sports, like title 9. This is setting women’s sports back and making a mockery of women’s swimming. Lia should swim exhibition and be proud to do that. She has made herself happy, which she should. But clearly her love of swimming and competition should not be at other women’s expense. Lia would definitely get the love and support she needs and deserves versus all this drama if she swam exhibition only. That would truly show she was swimming for the love of swimming, and that would also show her support and love for her team and transgender people There are many swimmers who swim on their college teams… Read more »

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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