Emmy Griffin / January 19, 2022

The GOAT of Swimming Calls for Level Playing Field

Michael Phelps comments on the situation involving gender dysphoria at UPenn.

The University of Pennsylvania’s biological male swimmer who competes with the women’s team has muddied the water. Lia Thomas (born Will) has made headlines for his utter domination of his female competitors. Now his name is in the headlines because an interviewer at CNN questioned 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps to share his opinion about what is going on.

Phelps, the greatest swimmer of our time, started out by saying this situation to him was like swimming with athletes who were doping. He waxed philosophic, saying: “I can talk from a standpoint of doping. I don’t think I have competed in a clean field in my entire career. So, I think this leads back to the organizing committees again, because it has to be a level playing field. I think that’s something that we all need, because it’s — like, that’s what sports are.”

Phelps is seemingly comparing these women swimming against Thomas to those swimming against drug-using cheaters. In other words, it’s not fair, but the organizing committees are to blame.

Phelps continued: “I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I believe that we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin. But I think sports should all be played an even playing field. I don’t know what it looks like in the future. But it’s hard. It’s very complicated and this is my sport, this has been my sport my whole entire career, and honestly, the one thing I would love is everybody being able to compete on an even playing field.”

His answer, though nuanced and trying not to step on any toes, makes his viewpoint clear: If a man competes against women, it’s not a level playing field. He is not alone in this sentiment.

The parents of other swimmers on the women’s UPenn swim team penned these words in a letter to the NCAA: “At stake here is the integrity of women’s sports… 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?”

Even former Olympian Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner, who is also gender dysphoric, weighed in on the situation: “This is a question of fairness. That’s why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.”

It’s about more than fairness, though. Political pundit Michael Knowles hits the nail on the head by defining the deeper issue — a denial of truth and a denial of reality. The truth is that Thomas is a guy and should compete on the men’s team. The reality is that because he is a guy, he has physical advantages that even with hormone suppression are superior to his female counterparts.

Thomas’s insistence on competing on the women’s team forces his teammates to lie and be performative in their enthusiasm because they don’t want to face the consequences that would bear down on their heads.

Thomas knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it to make a statement. His “transgender” activism can be inferred because he has equated himself with Jackie Robinson.

It is a poor comparison. Jackie Robinson actually had to face overt racism and even death threats his whole life, not just when he became the first black professional baseball player, the iconic #42. Thomas’s life is not one of overcoming those sort of obstacles.

Until Thomas’s teammates, competitors, and those women his choice directly affects band together and stand up for themselves and their sport, this is only going to get worse.

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