Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Loses Bid for NCAA Woman of the Year Award

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Lia Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania swimmer who became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I national championship, has lost a bid to become the 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year.

The NCAA announced its conference selections on Monday, with Columbia University fencer Sylvie Binder being selected to advance to the next round as the Ivy League conference winner.

The University of Pennsylvania previously drew backlash after nominating Thomas for the award. Eligible schools could nominate up to two female athletes. There were 577 nominees for this year’s award.

Binder, who was one of eight athletes nominated from The Ivy League conference, was an NCAA Women’s Foil Champion in 2019, according to Fox News. She placed third at the NCAA Championships this season with an overall record of 17-6 and was received the 2022 Women’s Connie S. Maniatty Award as Columbia’s top senior student-athlete, the outlet reported.

Meanwhile, Thomas ruffled feathers last season as the swimmer set pool, school, and Ivy League records. Thomas competed for three years on the men’s team and was ranked 462 as a male swimmer, but shot up to number one after being allowed to join the women’s team last season.

Thomas won the 500 freestyle at the NCAA swimming and diving championships in March, where the swimmer placed fifth in the 200 freestyle and eighth in the 100 freestyle.

Critics pointed out that Thomas had an unfair biological advantage from years of competing as a man. Penn swim parents sent a December 5 letter to the NCAA asking Thomas be ruled ineligible for women’s competitions.

“At stake here is the integrity of women’s sports,” the parents wrote in the letter to Penn and the Ivy League. “The precedent being set—one in which women do not have a protected and equitable space to compete—is a direct threat to female athletes in every sport. What are the boundaries? How is this in line with the NCAA’s commitment to providing a fair environment for student-athletes?”

Thomas dismissed the criticism in an interview with ESPN in May, arguing that “trans women are women.”

“It’s no different than a cis woman taking a spot on a travel team or a scholarship,” Thomas said at the time. “It’s a part of athletics, where people are competing against each other. It’s not taking away opportunities from cis women, really. Trans women are women, so it’s still a woman who is getting that scholarship or that opportunity.”

Before Thomas joined the women’s team, the NCAA required transgender women to undergo 12 months of hormone therapy to become eligible for competition in the women’s category. Thomas had undergone 30 months of hormone therapy upon beginning the season on the women’s team in November 2021.

The NCAA changed its policy in January to defer to the policies of the national governing bodies for each sport to determine eligibility.

USA Swimming announced a new policy one month later requiring biologically male athletes to undergo 36 months of testosterone suppression and an evaluation of eligibility by a three-person panel.

However, the NCAA did not enforce the policy for the 2022 swimming and diving championships. The NCAA enforced the previous policy and required transgender swimmers in the women’s field to have a testosterone level below 10 nanomoles per liter.

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