LETTER FROM NEW YORK
The photo of the podium made social media tour, especially in conservative circles. On the right, three young swimmers congratulate each other, huddled against each other, while on the left, far from the group, Lia Thomas wears her gold medal.
If the latter seems alone, this Thursday, March 17, during these American university swimming championships, which took place in Atlanta (Georgia), it is because four years ago she was still swimming in the boys’ pool. Transgender, Lia Thomas now competes and wins with girls, which arouses the distrust of some of her opponents and a lively controversy in the United States. On March 17, at age 22, she won the 500 yards (457 meters) freestyle, a first for a transgender athlete.
The first swimmer to openly criticize the situation was Hungary’s Reka Gyorgy, from Virginia Tech University, deprived of qualification for the final phase of the competition (she finished 17efor sixteen places), due, according to her, to the presence of Lia Thomas. “I would like to criticize the rules of the NCAA [l’association sportive universitaire américaine] that allow her to compete with us, who are biologically female”laments Reka Gyorgy. “I think it’s disrespectful to biologically female swimmers”she wrote, after taking care to point out that she “Respect Lia Thomas”. “I am convinced that she is no different from me or any other top swimmer who has been waking up at 5 a.m. her whole life for morning training… She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves this right. »
“Biologically, Lia has an unfair advantage over the competition in the women’s category. » Teammates of Lia Thomas
In January, sixteen teammates of Lia Thomas had stepped up to the plate, but anonymously, for fear of reprisals. It was Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic gold medalist in swimming in 1984, director of Champion Women, an organization for the defense of women’s sport, who posted the missive to the University of Pennsylvania and the Ivy League, which brings together the most prestigious American faculties: “Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over the competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her ranking, which went from rank 462 as a male to rank 1 as a female. »
The University of Pennsylvania and the Ivy League had supported Lia Thomas in early January. “Penn” is engaged “to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all student-athletes”while the Ivy League expressed a “unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes, while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form”. Ivy League sports authorities have strongly advised swimmers not to speak to the press.
You have 49.47% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.