A trans activist who claims she once dated Michael Phelps is claiming the Olympic swimming legend is a “hypocrite” for his seemingly ambivalent stance on controversial trans swimmer Lia Thomas.
Speaking with Radar, Taylor Lianne Chandler, whom Mr Phelps has never confirmed having a relationship with, said the swim star was ill-informed about trans issues, after he spoke about Ms Thomas.
"In that moment of watching and hearing him say those things, it felt like a literal slap in the face," she said. "I felt like I was good enough to love, lay with and be with, but not be respected or allowed in the women’s sport of swimming – like I was not a woman, but rather an alien or God-knows-what. It can’t be a woman’s sport if it doesn’t include all women, period!"
Earlier this month, Mr Phelps told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour it was “complicated” when it came to the record-breaking UPenn swimmer, who competed on the men’s team for three years before transitioning, seeming to equate transitioning to doping in swimming.
“I can talk from a standpoint of doping. I don’t think I’ve competed in a clean field my entire career. So I think this leads back to the organizing committees again. It has to be a level playing field. That’s something we all need. That’s what sports are,” he said, though he also argued, “I believe we all should be comfortable with who we are in our own skin.”
Ms Thomas began competing on the University of Pennsylvania women’s team for the 2021 - 2022. Under NCAA rules, trans women can compete in women’s sports leagues after having been on testosterone suppression for more than a year, a requirement which the 22-year-old complied with while the 2020 Ivy League swim season was canceled due to Covid.
The university has said it stands behind the swimmer.
“Penn Athletics is committed to being a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our student-athletes, coaches, and staff and we hold true to that commitment today and in the future… Lia Thomas has met or exceeded all NCAA protocols over the past two years for a transgender student-athlete to compete for a women’s team,” UPenn wrote in a statement.
The NCAA has since changed its rules to require athletes to document “sport-specific testosterone levels.”
Others, however, have reacted in anger towards the swimmer, ranging from conservative media futures and competitors, to teammates giving anonymous interviews.
USA Swimming official Cynthia Millen resigned after three decades in the organisation in protest at Ms Thomas’s participation, and has essentially argued trans people shouldn’t compete in the sports league that matches their gender.
“What this says to women is that you don’t matter,” Ms Millen told Inside Higher Ed. “It’s very selfish, in my opinion, of Lia, but it’s not Lia’s responsibility. It’s the NCAA’s responsibility and USA Swimming’s responsibility to say, ‘This doesn’t work, this isn’t fair, you can only compete in your biological sex.’”
For her part, Ms Thomas said she needed to transition, after feeling “trapped in my body.”
“I was struggling, my mental health was not very good. It was a lot of unease, basically just feeling trapped in my body. It didn’t align,” she told the SwimSwam Podcast in December. “I decided it was time to come out and start my transition.”