Group of Penn Swimmers Ask UPenn, Ivy league To Abide By New Transgender Policy

A group consisting of 16 athletes on the University of Pennsylvania women’s swimming and diving team and their families have issued an open letter to UPenn and the Ivy League asking them to abide by the new transgender guidelines put in place by USA Swimming and not to engage in legal action.

The group, organized by three-time Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar, sent the letter early Thursday morning asking UPenn and the Ivy League “to support us as biological women” and not engage the NCAA in legal action in an effort to challenge the new protocols.

Hogshead-Makar says that the swimmers wrote the letter themselves, though both Hogshead-Makar, an organized group of parents, and other athletes, made edits before arriving at the final draft.

There are currently 41 athletes listed on Penn’s women’s swimming and diving roster, indicating this group consists of approximately 39 percent of the team.

The NCAA Board of Governors updated the organization’s transgender policy on January 19, opting to implement a sport-by-sport approach where the criteria for transgender participation would be decided by the sport’s national governing body (NGB).

USA Swimming, the NGB for swimming in the United States, then released its new Athlete Inclusion, Competitive Equity and Eligibility Policy on Tuesday, which is what the group is asking for UPenn and the Ivy League to follow and not challenge.

“Tuesday, USA Swimming released new ‘Athlete Inclusion Procedures’ shortly after the NCAA acknowledged that each sport should determine how fairness and inclusion were to be accomplished,” the letter reads. “In particular, we appreciate USAS Guideline’s guiding purpose, to ensure that transgender women competing in the Female competition category “do not have an unfair advantage over their cisgender Female competitors in Elite Events.’

“We fully support Lia Thomas in her decision to affirm her gender identity and to transition from a man to a woman. Lia has every right to live her life authentically.

“However, we also recognize that when it comes to sports competition, the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity.”

The letter continues to lament that Thomas holds an unfair advantage over her competitors, and that it’s resulting in some of the team’s athletes missing out on opportunities.

“The Penn Women’s Swimming Team has over 40 women, but only 18 of us are chosen to compete in the end-of-year culmination of our work: the Ivy Championships,” the letter continues.

“Most important to us is that Lia’s inclusion with unfair biological advantages means that we have lost competitive opportunities. Some of us have lost records. But even those that swim different events than Lia or were not in contention to make the Ivy Championships, we stand by our teammates who have lost out.

“It has often felt like Penn, our school, our league, and the NCAA did not support us.”

The letter says the athletes have been told they would face repercussions for speaking out publicly against Thomas’ inclusion in women’s competition, including removal from the team “or that we would never get a job offer.”

Hogshead-Makar did not respond to a question about who told them that they would never get a job offer.

“We hope that sport will adapt; that swimming will find a place for Lia to compete. Lia is always welcome to train with us; the men’s and women’s swimming teams have always trained together with the same head coach.

“However, sport is competitive by definition, and Lia’s wins, records, and honors should not come at our expense, the women who have worked their entire lives to earn a spot on the Penn Women’s Swimming Team.

“We just celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day. In honor of the Title IX pioneers who have worked so hard for women to have opportunities in sports and for educational opportunities for all women, we ask the University of Pennsylvania recognize the importance of providing fair competition and safe spaces for its biological female athletes.

“Further, we ask that Penn and the Ivy League refrain from suing the NCAA, or try to interfere with or weaken these new Athlete Inclusion Policies, that they be allowed to stand, so that we are able to finish our swimming season with distinction and pride.”

The open letter comes shortly after a group consisting of “several members” of the UPenn women’s team released a statement in support of Thomas on Tuesday.

The policy published earlier this week by USA Swimming requires an athlete to provide the following:

  • Evidence that the prior physical development of the athlete as a male, as mitigated by any medical intervention, does not give the athlete a competitive advantage over the athlete’s cisgender female competitors.
  • Evidence that the concentration of testosterone in the athlete’s serum has been less than 5 nmol/L (as measured by liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry) continuously for a period of at least thirty-six (36) months before the date of application.

The previous International Olympic Committee (IOC) policy was 10 nmol/L, double the standard USA Swimming is implementing.

The USA Swimming policy does specifically note that it’s only applicable to athlete members of USA Swimming. CEO Tim Hinchey recently said that Thomas was not a USA Swimming member.

Penn is scheduled to compete in the Ivy League Championships February 16-19, and the NCAA Championships March 16-19. Thomas did not race at the team’s final regular season meet on Friday against West Chester.

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Gus Hippo
4 months ago

It’s strange that people think that Title IX should stop transgender athletes from competing, when the Department of Education has already made it explicit that Title IX in fact guarantees the right of transgender athletes to compete according to their gender identity, not sex assigned at birth. Being in conformity with Title IX means being on the side of transgender athletes. In fact, most colleges and universities would discipline Thomas’s teammates for their letter under Title IX if they knew of the identity of the signers because one of the the things the HR office investigates to comply with Title IX is harassment, which includes all advocacy of discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and gender express. At… Read more »

Here We Go Again
4 months ago

Here to read the comments….

Pichael Mhelps
4 months ago

No

Swimmy
4 months ago

Simple. You have XX you compete as female. You have XY you compete as male. If you have one of the rare situations where you are XXY or XYY or any other trisomy of the sex chromosomes then you’re in a different category.

Last edited 4 months ago by Swimmy
Not-so-Silent Observer
Reply to  Swimmy
4 months ago

That is called. Discrimination based on sex.

swimfan27
Reply to  Not-so-Silent Observer
4 months ago

Not, it is not. It is called fair competition based on sex.

Not-so-Silent Observer
Reply to  swimfan27
4 months ago

I’m so glad to see all the internet trolls with their middle school biology expertise have come out to weigh in on topics like the difference of gender and sex.

HJones
Reply to  Not-so-Silent Observer
4 months ago

You just tried to say someone was uneducated yet completely fail to understand what “discrimination based on sex” actually is

Ex-D1-swimmer with an MD
Reply to  Swimmy
4 months ago

This would not work, there are XY individuals who are phenotypically female. Research Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome – the individual is ‘immune’ to male hormones. It is sometimes discovered at birth but we were told by an Endocrinology Professor about a patient who was diagnosed after getting married and wanting to conceive. She had amenorrhea through her life and went to investigate. Her life unraveled and she ultimately committed suicide.

Swimmy
Reply to  Ex-D1-swimmer with an MD
4 months ago

That’s terrible and very sad. This is a complex issue

Swammer
4 months ago

Lia had been in compliance for nearly three years with the rules NCAA put in place over a decade ago. Shame on NCAA and USA swimming and their outdated, reactionary leadership for failing on their promise of inclusivity by firstly implementing rules for over a decade and then cracking under mob pressure in their attempt to target and rob an athlete of their last collegiate season. Both organizations are complicit in lazy, incompetent approach to leadership and inclusion.

Moreover, this immediate policy affects all other trans athletes who have been contemplating or had already began a transition process. Effective immediately, it makes them ineligible to compete unless they can satisfy both conditions, which demand a 36-month period window of compliance.… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Swammer
Barbossa Andrew 🐍
Reply to  Swammer
4 months ago

+10000 to this! Louder for the people in the back!

Anonymoose
Reply to  Barbossa Andrew 🐍
4 months ago

You.. you guys are the people in the back tho

Ferb
Reply to  Swammer
4 months ago

Some people would argue that the NCAA and USA Swimming cracked under mob pressure back when they agreed to allow woman-identified biological males to compete directly against biological females.

Swammer
Reply to  Ferb
4 months ago

The ncaa slapped together a quick policy ten years ago just to complete the check list. Then they sat on it for a decade and did nothing. This is not a new issue. Beloved ncaa administration gets paid thousands of dollars to sit on their hands and do nothing because being reactive is easier than proactive. Pathetic.

I am not a crazy woke liberal by the way. They would not change the rules on the fly for anything else in a one week period. To change ANY legislation, NCAA first proposes it and allows time for members to review the changes. This policy is so discriminatory is not even funny. I’m looking at this from a human perspective. Have… Read more »

Swimmy
Reply to  Swammer
4 months ago

Maybe this was just such a horribly unfair situation that was ramping up to a terrible NCAA meet that they literally HAD to do something. Lia going from a decent male swimmer to a potential NCAA champion should tell you all you need to know about this situation. Girls that have been swimming as girls in girl bodies since they could splash their way across the summer league pool and have stuck with it through all of the struggles including female hormones, having your period on deck, getting hips and boobs which derails your whole training causing a puberty slump that most all females go through where you basically have to learn to swim all over again will not stand… Read more »

Swammer
Reply to  Swimmy
4 months ago

This is not a situation. This is a direct consequence of mediocrity, exclusion and complacency. NCAA and USA Swimming and their crappy outdated policies are the reason why Lia finds herself in her senior year uncertain of her eligibility participation in NCAAs in March, while NCAA decides to review the policy in February? Do this to Basketball or Football. God forbid. This lazy, disrespectful and discriminatory way of handling the issue is not short of bigotry and exclusion. Shame on NCAA, USA Swimming and all the bigotry that is surrounds itself with.
NCAA, USA Swimming and every single woman was aware of this policy for over ten years.

Swammer
4 months ago

Lia had been in compliance for nearly three years with the rules NCAA put in place over a decade ago. Shame on NCAA and USA swimming and their outdated, reactionary leadership for failing their promise of inclusivity by firstly implementing rules for over a decade and then cracking under mob pressure in their attempt to target and rob an athlete of their last collegiate season. Both organizations are complicit in lazy, incompetent approach to leadership and inclusion.

Moreover, this immediate policy affects all other trans athletes who have been contemplating or had already began a transition process. Effective immediately, it makes them ineligible to compete unless they can satisfy both conditions, which demand a 36-month period window of compliance.… Read more »

Creed Ko
5 months ago

Lawsuit Scenario #1: NCAA enforces USA Swimming’s new rules and Lia Thomas is not allowed to compete at Ivy/NCAA Championships… Lia sues the NCAA, but can the NCAA’s hide behind the fact that technically they did not make the rules, USA Swimming did, and thus the NCAA can’t be held libel? 
Further, can Lia really sue USA Swimming because she is not a member of USA Swimming, is not competing in USA Swimming events, thus USA Swimming can’t be held libel for a rule that technically is not being broken by Lia competing in a non-USA Swimming event.

Lawsuit Scenario #2: Lia is allowed to compete and a class action Title 9 lawsuit is brought by the Penn athletes who signed the letter… Read more »

Swammer
Reply to  Creed Ko
4 months ago

Class action Title IX suit against Lia probably would be a waste of time as Lia has completed all NCAA requirements set forth at the beginning of the season.
They can sue NCAA for the policies these athletes disagree with.
And no point to sue Penn for following the NCAA rules.

Bobo Gigi
5 months ago

Why is common sense no longer part of our modern world?

ooo
Reply to  Bobo Gigi
5 months ago

Bobo for Pres!

Ferb
Reply to  ooo
4 months ago

As a Frenchman, Bobo is not eligible to be US president, unless there are some new diversity, equity, and inclusion rules I’m not aware of. Even if he were to identify as an American, and transition accordingly, he would not be eligible, because the President must be a “natural born” citizen.

ooo
Reply to  Ferb
4 months ago

Trans citizenship, a emerging concept that soon will render those obviously unfair rules obsolete.

Coach MikeK
Reply to  Bobo Gigi
4 months ago

That’s a very simple yet perfect post to the situation at hand 🤔.

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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