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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Swammer
18 days ago

He is correct. We base sport on sex, not gender. Lia Thomas can live their life however they want, but that doesn’t change biological sex and all the inherent advantages that being male gives Lia. NCAA should update policies immediately.

jdsmitty1
Reply to  Swammer
18 days ago

So where does Schuyler Bailar fit into this?

oldandretired
Reply to  jdsmitty1
18 days ago

Does not matter cause he will never beat the best of the best of biological man so it does not threaten the integrity of this category

HJones
Reply to  jdsmitty1
18 days ago

Was one of the slowest swimmers on the men’s team. Transmen are not the issue here.

snarky
Reply to  jdsmitty1
18 days ago

Apples to oranges comparison my friend.

Anonymous
Reply to  jdsmitty1
15 days ago

False equivalency arguments are getting old and remain ineffective.

MLK
Reply to  Swammer
17 days ago

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
– MLK Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.

Steve Nolan
18 days ago

I’m so tired.

Entgegen
18 days ago

“I’m 63. I’m at nearly the end of my career in coaching, and I can’t be canceled.”

Seems to be a common worry for many regarding this issue.

BearlyBreathing
Reply to  Entgegen
18 days ago

Wait until Feb 20th. Then I think you’ll see an relative avalanche of female swimmers willing to put their names next to their opinions.

Last edited 18 days ago by BearlyBreathing
Justanotherswimmom
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
18 days ago

I wish you were right, but I doubt it. These young women will still be looking to get jobs, letters of recommendation, grad school admissions, etc. I’m guessing the vast majority of them won’t want to take on the risk of being “canceled”, as Coach Salo put it. Hopefully more people will come forward to speak up on their behalf.

Purple People Feeter
Reply to  Justanotherswimmom
18 days ago

If these young women came out and said “I think Lia Thomas has an unfair advantage competing against cis-gender in collegiate swimming,” I don’t think they’d be ‘cancelled.’ Sure they’d get a few nasty Tweets, but no more than Lia has gotten from the Washington Times loons.

If I were an employer and I read a candidate had said that “OMG RUN FOR THE HILLS TRANSGENDER WOMEN ARE TAKING OVER THE WORLD MYSOGYNY I QUIT ON A JOB IN PROTEST 2 DAYS BEFORE A BIG MEET FOR AN UNRELATED GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO WERE COUNTING ON ME,” I might have to think hard about whether that person fit into my company culture.

none of these anonymous teammates have shown any… Read more »

cynthia curran
Reply to  Purple People Feeter
18 days ago

U propose that Lia Thomas swim a stroke that Thomas is not as good at like Breaststroke if she wants to swim in college as a women. Also, Nancy Hogshead mention an expedition swim that could have a certain reward for Thomas. competiting at women’s events in College. There are ways to compete by not makin git hard on the other women. Thomas should not be saying women American records because she use to be he.

Coach Tom
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
18 days ago

Really? You think so? What do you think would be the experience for the average Cal swimmer walking around Berkeley if they put their name behind such an opinion?

My guess is that it would not be very pleasant.

BearlyBreathing
Reply to  Coach Tom
18 days ago

I think seniors who are in their final semester of classes and have completed their swimming eligibility will feel much more free to speak out — not only those at Penn but other Div I schools. There’s not much a school administration can do to stifle their opinions at that point.
Also, I don’t believe Cal is the unanimous hive-mind people think it is but that’s kind of a tangent.

Coach Tom
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
18 days ago

I never suggested Cal was a unanimous hive-mind. I’ve known many people who went there and who have lived there to understand as much. However, no reasonable person would deny that some of the activists there are known for having a particularly nasty and vindictive streak. The fact that you qualified your statement by singling out seniors in their final semester of classes is a tacit admission that things would be untenable on campus going forward for anyone else who made such a statement.

The condors were robbed
Reply to  Entgegen
18 days ago

What a legend

Coach
Reply to  Entgegen
18 days ago

A common concern, and a silly one. Look on any social media post about this situation. You’ll find TONS of people speaking out against Lia, many very disrespectfully. And somehow the “wokeism” hasn’t taken them out…

Entgegen
Reply to  Coach
16 days ago

I’ve only seen people defending Lia on my social media… college-age Instagram may show different content

Breezeway
Reply to  Entgegen
18 days ago

Erik Brown just put her name on it, so she’s not worried

SwimmerFan99
18 days ago

Amen. Shame that only those who are retired or near the end of their career find themselves able to speak out. If everyone who truly felt this way actually spoke up in their everyday lives, this fringe movement would have no chance in the slightest.

Hank
18 days ago

NCAA, USA swimming, FINA should not acknowledge any records set by a transgender swimmer. If WADA marks blood samples as suspicious and inconsistent with an athlete’s past samples, then the same should apply to results. These results are inconsistent with the athlete’s past results. Regardless of gender issues someone doesn’t go from a virtual nobody in swimming to threatening American records.

Last edited 18 days ago by Hank
Ervin
18 days ago

He had me till he said “wokeism”

Stewie
Reply to  Ervin
18 days ago

“Washington Times”

Meeeeee
Reply to  Ervin
18 days ago

Do you need the term explained to you?

Bob Dobbalina
Reply to  Meeeeee
18 days ago

Do you???

SCCOACH
Reply to  Ervin
18 days ago

Agree, major eye roll from me. If you don’t like wokeism or cancel culture then don’t use the words wokeism and cancel culture. Just state your opinion and move on.

Chas E
Reply to  SCCOACH
18 days ago

So we can’t use words/terms we don’t like?

SCCOACH
Reply to  Chas E
18 days ago

Anyone can say what they want but you lose credibility when you use trigger words to enhance your argument. If you don’t think Lia Thomas should compete with women, fine. This is not about wokeism or cancel culture, it’s about what is right.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Ervin
18 days ago

That’s the problem with a guy like that. Even if he’s got good points on one extreme example you know darn well he’s pushing the same mindset across the board, embracing fear and exclusion. It’s the Washington Times prized demographic. Fortunately Carol Folt will apply a different value system in future hires.

BearlyBreathing
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
18 days ago

> Fortunately Carol Folt will apply a different value system in future hirescomment image

Last edited 18 days ago by BearlyBreathing
HJones
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
18 days ago

How does this have anything to do with Salo?

Coach Tom
Reply to  HJones
18 days ago

He was an assistant on Salo’s staff for years and only got the job in the first place because of it.

Ghost
18 days ago

I don’t know of any swimmer or coach who thinks NCAA approach is correct. Move on and let swimming committee and ncaa deal with it.

Big Mac #1
Reply to  Ghost
18 days ago

To tack on, 100% the rules need to be reevaluated and probably changed but also, let’s remember that Lia is simply following the rules currently set and I’m sure she would follow any new rules too. We must have some objectivity but also compassion in this.

pete kennedy
18 days ago

Having had the privilege to coach girls and women (age group, high school and collegiate level) I have to say this is absurd.
The question that remains to be asked: “Why are the voices of the women’s athletic movement silent on this critical issue?
Apparently, the NCAA nor women’s groups will not take any action. The only solution is for the athletes and their coaches to take action and boycott.

Stan Crump
Reply to  pete kennedy
18 days ago

Where is Donna Lopiano when we really need her?

shoudawouda
Reply to  Stan Crump
18 days ago

People are afraid for their livelihood. Bravo Jeri Shanteau for standing up for women. You are the true feminist.

Coach
Reply to  shoudawouda
18 days ago

Anyone who fears for their livelihood speaking out on Lia Thomas is either completely delusional, or saying some pretty heinous stuff. Your opinion is hardly the minority.

Coach Tom
Reply to  Coach
18 days ago

While it’s true that speaking out against Lia Thomas competing against biological women may get you a lot of upvotes on a swimming forum, this isn’t really true when you consider the unique sphere of college swimming and academia, where presenting any view perceived as anti-trans can lead to severe career ramifications. In fact, were Coach Salo an employee of the University of California system (I understand USC is a private school and not beholden to these regulations) he likely would have been fired for his comments under California law.

Coach
Reply to  Coach Tom
17 days ago

You live in a fantasy land. Lia has faced much more backlash for this than Salo, auboeck, Beard, anyone else speaking out about this.

Bob Steele
Reply to  Coach
17 days ago

Haven’t heard anything from Lia Thomas??

Katherine Williams
Reply to  Coach
14 days ago

There are consequences for your actions. Lia doesn’t deserve the vitriol, or the bigotry, but she can’t expect a pass from fair criticism. Lia is an adult who has to expect some outrage. She finished 38 seconds ahead of the 2nd place finisher. She’s the fastest female Div I swimmer in the nation, currently, despite her failure to place even regionally her first three years on the team. If she’s content to stand on the podium and let them hang a medal around her neck with a straight face, she must open herself up to fair criticism of her hollow victories. To expect differently is to assume privilege.

Last edited 14 days ago by Katherine Williams
Courtney Blood
Reply to  Katherine Williams
14 days ago

She finished 38 seconds ahead of a very mediocre field in the 1650 free. As her “anonymous” teammate said, the Penn women are not a very good team. The meet had some decent mid-major programs there, but none of them are particularly good in the mile.

Lia ranks only 6th in the NCAA this season in the mile. She’s almost a minute behind Katie Ledecky’s record. I’m sick of non-swimming people peddling this 38 seconds thing like it’s the smoking gun. If you’re a swimming person – shame on you, because you know better.

Honestly her 500 time is more impressive than her mile. The 1650 comparison is just designed to generate rage among non-critical thinkers. It’s Nancy Hogshead-style exaggerated… 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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