Lia Thomas breaks Down in Tears After Being Booed Off Stage at “NCAA Legends”

For the first time since securing a national title more than two months ago, Thomas spoke publicly with ABC News‘ Juju Chang about the controversy surrounding her performances at the women’s NCAA Championships in March and her future in the sport of swimming. Thomas, a trans woman, last engaged in a comprehensive conversation with SwimSwam’s Coleman Hodges in December 2021, where she discussed her transition to womanhood that commenced in 2019. Since then, the University of Pennsylvania student-athlete clinched a pair of Ivy League titles in the women’s 200 and 500-yard freestyle events before securing the NCAA title in the 500 in mid-March. Although Thomas’ NCAA eligibility has expired, she expressed her intention to continue competing. “It’s been a long-standing goal of mine to swim at the Olympic Trials, and I would love to see that through,” she stated.

Thomas also addressed the controversy surrounding her performances during the 2021-22 collegiate season, particularly at the NCAA Championships, where protesters expressed their disapproval of her ability to compete as a woman. “I knew there would be scrutiny against me if I competed as a woman. I was prepared for that, but I also don’t need anybody’s permission to be myself and to pursue the sport that I love,” she affirmed. Thomas, who is preparing to commence law school in the fall, attributed her success in the pool to a sense of relief stemming from her authenticity following the transition process. “There are numerous factors that influence a race and one’s performance,” she explained when questioned about her standing as a woman compared to when she competed in the male category. “The most significant change for me is my happiness. During my sophomore year, when I achieved my best times competing with men, I was miserable. Being relieved of that burden is incredibly freeing and allows me to dedicate myself fully to training and racing. Trans individuals do not transition for athletic advantages; we transition to attain happiness, authenticity, and our true selves. Seeking an advantage through transitioning is not a consideration in our decisions.”

Thomas also addressed the group of Penn swimmers who anonymously signed a letter urging Penn and the Ivy League to adhere to the updated USA Swimming transgender guidelines, which would prevent Thomas from participating in NCAA postseason competitions. These swimmers also expressed full support for Thomas in her transition. “You cannot offer conditional support to trans women and trans individuals,” Thomas remarked. “If you support trans women as women and they have fulfilled all the NCAA requirements, then I don’t know if you can make statements like that. Trans women do not pose a threat to women’s sports.”

When questioned about assertions that the lasting effects of testosterone and male puberty cannot be reversed, Thomas responded, “I am not a medical expert, but there is significant variation among cisfemale athletes. Some ciswomen are very tall and have higher testosterone levels than other ciswomen. Should that disqualify them?”

Thomas has not competed since the NCAA Championships. According to USA Swimming’s transgender policy published at the beginning of February, she would need to fulfill the following criteria if she intended to participate in a USA Swimming competition, including the 2024 Olympic Trials:

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