Stanford’s Brooke Forde Says She’s Okay with Racing Lia Thomas at NCAAs

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.

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 They have realized that it’s probably outdated.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.”


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Mark Torres
2 years ago

Anyone know why her timeS have suddenly gotten much slower and why she didn’t swim in the 1-28 meet?

Last edited 2 years ago by Mark Torres
2 years ago

I’m reading this as “I’m an Olympian, if you want to race I welcome the challenge.” This is the response I expect from someone training to become champion.

2 years ago

Ask someone at a school not full of liberals

Reply to  Shaq
2 years ago

As conservatives are currently against anyone not a straight white male, liberals are EXACTLY who we need to ask.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Shaq
2 years ago

They did, she’s at Stanford.

2 years ago

I personally don’t believe it is fair competition for Lia to be competing in the Women’s division, but regardless, I think that last point about how Brooke is thus far the person with the most to lose who has made a public opinion on the matter is undeniable. And although you can argue and make hypotheticals about “Would she say the same if there were more trans competitors than just Lia?” or “What if this was in context of U.S. Olympic Trials?” or “What if she wasn’t wrapping up her NCAA Career already?”, I think it is unfair to try to undermine her opinion/stance with these statements just because what she said doesn’t align with popular opinion. Brooke obviously doesn’t… Read more »

2 years ago

I always appreciate Pat Forde when he provides commentary on swimming. I loved hearing from him during the Olympics last summer and I had been hoping he might have something to say on this topic. As usual, he cut right to the heart of this matter — that Lia retains some of the benefits of having been a man. There are likely to be more rule changes this season. We all would like to have both inclusivity and fairness, but it appears to be an impossible combination. FINA and USA Swimming will have to choose which they value more.

Brooke and all of the women who have competed with Lia this year have shown a lot of grace and are… Read more »

2 years ago

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.’”

Right on!

Mr Piano
2 years ago

Better than the republicans who want to deny trans people all rights.

2 years ago

The swimming community(on swimswam at least) are some of the most liberal open minded people. We aren’t trying to be political just recognize this has the potential to ruin women’s sports.

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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