On the January 25th episode of the College Football Enquirer podcast, Sports Illustrated reporter Pat Forde explained to Dan Wetzel and the football world the controversy surrounding transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of Penn.
- Listen to the podcast here, conversation starts at about 22 minutes in.
Forde has an inside track in the sport, as his daughter Brooke Forde is a graduate student at Stanford University, in her fifth year of NCAA eligibility. With Lia Thomas still leading the nation in the 200/500 free, after her performances at the Zippy Invite in December, it is likely that she and Brooke Forde will vie for the NCAA crown in the 500 free at 2022 NCAAs.
Pat Forde said as much in the podcast, when he laid out the situation:
“[Brooke will] swim the 500 freestyle at NCAA Championships, so she will compete against Lia if Lia is there, and the expectation is that Lia will be there.
“Will Thomas was #65 in 500 free in 2018-19. Lia Thomas is #1 in the 500 free. So there has not been a complete mitigation of whatever physical benefits were accrued by being a man. The NCAA had a decade-old policy on testosterone levels and testing. They have realized that it’s probably outdated. In their attempts to update it, yes, they completely just abdicated and punted this all to USA Swimming, which has been working with FINA, which is the international governing body of swimming, on new transgender participation policy, which is expected out soon — like early February. And that policy will then be the USA Swimming policy which will then be the NCAA policy, which will tell us whether or not Lia Thomas will swim at the NCAA Championships in March.
“I think the expectation is that this will be very late to change the rules of the game and to put her out of that; but there has been major hue and cry over this. There’s major questions of inclusivity, fairness, is this damaging to women’s sports? Do we ever get to a point where we have a transgender category, a third category, at the college level? Men’s swimming, women’s swimming, transgender swimming? Men’s track, women’s track, transgender track? Whatever the case may be? People are very concerned about precedent, so this is all over the place.”
Pat Forde went on to note that “some of the folks who are really wound up about this and screaming about the fairness to women’s sports really don’t give a damn about women’s sports. They’re using this as a political wedge issue.”
The elder Forde was at Stanford watching Brooke swim last weekend, and he asked her what she thought about the situation. To his surprise, Brooke had prepared a statement, which he read aloud on the podcast:
“I have great respect for Lia. Social change is always a slow and difficult process, and we rarely get it correct right away. Being among the first to lead such a social change requires an enormous amount of courage and I admire Lia for her leadership that will undoubtedly benefit many trans athletes in the future. In 2020 I, along with most swimmers, experienced what it was like to have my chance to achieve my swimming goals taken away after years of hard work. I would not wish this experience on anyone, especially Lia who has followed the rules required of her. I believe that treating people with respect and dignity is more important than any trophy or record will ever be, which is why I will not have a problem racing against Lia at NCAAs this year.” —Brooke Forde
Brooke Forde competed for Stanford in the 500 free at the 2018, 2019, and 2021 NCAAs and won the national championship as a sophomore in 2019. She placed 11th in 2018 and 3rd in 2021. The 2020 national championship was canceled due to the pandemic. As we head into championship season, Forde ranks third in the 500 free (4:36.96) behind Thomas (4:34.06) and Arizona State’s Emma Nordin (4:34.87).
One might argue that Forde has more to lose than just about everyone else with an opinion about Thomas’ presence at NCAAs and, as her father says on the podcast, “I was impressed by the perspective. I think some people could take a good lesson from that.”