Wed. Jan 26th, 2022


It’s all going swimmingly in Ivy League women’s watersports. In a shock result at last week’s meet at the University of Pennsylvania, Lia Thomas, of the home team, who has transitioned from male to female, lost the 100- and 400-yard freestyle events to Yale’s Iszac Henig, who is transitioning from female to male.

Are they gaming the system? 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association sets the rules for college sports. Its guidelines, written in 2010, don’t demand that trans athletes put their assets on the line and undergo gender-reassignment surgery. They say that a man can compete in women’s sports after “completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.” 

Lia Thomas started her college swim career on Penn’s men’s team but has followed the science as the NCAA defines it. She may not have surgically streamlined her profile in the water, but her testosterone levels are low enough for her to swim with the ladies. And my, how she swims.

At last month’s Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio, Thomas zipped through the one-mile freestyle so fast she set a new national record for college women. Her time was 15:59.71: nearly 40 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor and only 40 seconds behind the world record. 

In Akron, Thomas also set a new Ivy League record in the 500-yard freestyle (4:34.06) and broke the pool, meet and program records in the 200-yard freestyle (1:41.93).

Iszac Henig was born a woman but identifies as a “trans guy.” He’s had his breasts removed but has decided, he says, not to take the testosterone treatment that would bar him from swimming with women. Henig is having it both ways, but whatever he’s not doing, it’s working. 

At the Penn meet, Henig beat Thomas twice and set a new record in the 50-yard freestyle. Some observers suspected that Thomas, whose record-setting swims in Akron had attracted unwelcome attention to her aquatic attributes, deliberately swam slowly. In the old days, that was called throwing a fight. 

“I love to go swimming with women, / And women love swimming with me” went the old song. The women of the Ivy League don’t love swimming with Thomas and Henig, but the politically correct commissars of the Ivy League are cowed by trans-rights activists, so they’re overruling the protests and calling anyone who objects “transphobic.”

That’s not just unfair. It’s discriminatory, and it’s dangerous, too.

This is America, where you can be anyone you want to be. We should respect the new identities of Iszac and Lia. They’re living their best life, as the kids say, and it’s their business — until, that is, it becomes other people’s business. 

Does a male-to-female trans sportsman have an unfair advantage when it comes to college admissions? You bet: Lia Thomas is swimming at full-scholarship speed. And what happens when a 250-pound biological male “self-identifies” his way into women’s contact sports? You know: carnage. 

Women fought long and hard to compete on their own terms. Why should they be forced to compete against those who retain crucial physical advantages from having grown up male? The scientific evidence that these advantages survive even sex reassignment is overwhelming.

Nature runs its own doping program. It’s called male adolescence. High levels of testosterone in the teenage growth spurt give boys a big jaw and big muscles. Aerobic exercise — swimming, for example — increases testosterone supply further. Lopping off male genitalia and changing swim teams doesn’t annul the physical legacies of growing up male. 

NIH

That explains why the traffic in elite trans sports is almost entirely in one direction: male-to-female. Schuyler Bailar of Harvard, a rare female-to-male trans swimmer, has said that he found joining the men’s team hard because “my capabilities physically at that point were way lower than other males’.” Conversely, a biological male like Lia Thomas retains masculine advantages when swimming with the women. 

Something is fishy here. We have followed the science into a new and absurd situation, but outdated rules and the chronic cowardice of college administrators dictate the official response. Trans people are intersex, somewhere between biological maleness and femaleness. The rules are being bent in a way that punishes and even endangers biological women and makes a mockery of sporting competition.

Let trans athletes compete as equals — in their own category. 

Dominic Green is the editor of The Spectator’s world edition. 

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