In the spring/summer of 2022, there was only one name on the tongues of the Daily Mail editors and no prizes for guessing who…the American trans woman swimmer Lia Thomas. They were not alone; other right-wing trans-hostile media outlets joined in; the Times, GB News, The Telegraph and LBC were tremendous allies to “save women’s sports.”
The usual gender-critical antagonists supported the campaign against Lia, such as Emma Hilton, Jon Pike, and Dr Ross Tucker – aided and abetted by the trans-hostile organisation Fair Play for Women and celebs such as Peers Morgan and Sharron Davies.
With such a wall of criticism in the UK, Lia Thomas didn’t have a chance – public opinion, albeit supportive of trans people, drew the line – women’s sport had to be saved at all costs!
But saved from what exactly?
In this article, we are looking at what the British media and trans-hostile gender-critical scientists told the public and, more importantly, decision-makers of other sports – that Lia Thomas had an advantage. We will also compare Lia’s actual performance to natal females.
The UK’s Daily Mail played a massive part in public opinion. A simple online search proves the swathes of articles. In just two days May 30th and 31st, The Mail printed three pieces that appears to be solely written to create outrage.
And let’s consider; the moral panic was over a university swimmer, not a high-profile Manchester United soccer star who beat his cat and earned half a million pounds a week. The Mail’s agenda, is however, to cause moral panic, thus creating clicks and more advertising revenue – for them, people are a bye product for financial gain.
Lia Thomas started swimming at the age of five and became competitive in state-level competition competing for Westlake High School. She joined Penn University in 2017 and immediately joined the men’s team, tending to swim more extended events such as the 1000 and 1650 yards freestyle. Like many swimmers, she competed in other swimming-style events, including a few shorter distances. Lia was reasonably successful while identifying as a man – her time of 8:57.55 ranked her nationally sixth in the 1000 yard free, and her other event times often put her in the top 100.
In the subsequent two years, Lia continued to progress in the men’s events, ending in the 2018/19 season with the top times in the 500 freestyle, 1000 free, and 1650 freestyle.
In May 2019, Lia started to transition, and with the reduction of testosterone and the replacement of estrogen having a massive effect on her body, her times rapidly reduced. Her time for the 500 yard freestyle slowed by a massive 15 seconds, so Lia changed to sprint events before deciding to enter the women’s competition for the season of 21/22.
Lia swam in various events for her first season in the women’s team, but without question, her best event was the 500 freestyle winning the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships (March 22) in a time of 4:33.24. Lia was not placed in the first three in the other events she competed.
Whilst 4:33.24 was a good time; it would not have won her the title in six of the seven previous years. It was a massive NINE seconds behind Katie Ledecky’s performance in 2018 – she won in a record NCAA time of 4:26.57, which still stands today.
Other winners of the 500 yards free at the NCAA Championships in the six previous years include Brittany Maclean (4:32.53), Leah Smith (4:31.33) and Brooke Forde (4:31.54).
All these names and times relate to the NCAA Championship, but Ledecky continued to break records, her best being 4:24.06 for the 500 free, some eleven seconds quicker than Lia Thomas ever achieved. That time was and still is a national record.
Did Lia Thomas break any records at all?
Yes, she did, but only at college events. Much was made by the British press and Lia’s success at the “Zippy International” – in essence, this is a pre-season invitational event held by the University of Akron. Lia’s time for the 500 free was 4:34.06, slightly slower than her time at NCAA. It is also interesting to note that at a swim meet in Austin, Texas, sixteen-year-old Bella Sims recorded a time of 4:32:28, and in the very same race, 15-year-old Katie Grimes touched the wall just behind her in 4:32:97 just weeks after Lia’s much-publicised success at the Zippy Invitational. Did we hear of Bella Sims or Katie Grimes amazing times for kids still at school in the UK?
Where was the Daily Mail?
Lia also had success within the “Ivy League“, this being an inter-collegiate competition with eight colleges and universities based in the northeast of the US. She also had some success in other area-based university competitions.
The right-wing media and gender-critical made Lia Thomas out to be a swimmer on the national stage, smashing important records and dominating female swimming – that simply was not true. Lia was competitive but simply no more than that.
Ross Tucker, one of those responsible for all the hype wrote:
Swimmer Lia Thomas has been shattering university records, setting the fastest times in the USA, and is well on the way to becoming the highest profile trans women athlete to date. Her times as Lia are within sight not only of legends of US women’s swimming, but also very close to what she swam as Will Thomas, prior to a period of suppressing testosterone to become eligible for women’s sport. This confirms what science has shown, that biological and performance advantages of males cannot be undone by a period of testosterone suppression.
Videos appeared on social media showing Lia winning by large margins when in reality, she was often swimming against (by comparison) poor swimmers in preliminary events, and Twitter in particular, went wild.
At the NCAA Swimming Championships in 2022, in which Lia competed, TWENTY-SEVEN new swimming Championship records were broken by other swimmers; Lia Thomas did not come close. Just one UK newspaper, The Independent, called it as it was, saying Lia didn’t have an unfair advantage at all.
Lia never swam for the United States swimming team, and in June 2022, all trans women swimmers and divers were banned from competing – women’s sports (as far as swimming was concerned) were saved!
The truth is somewhat different, though. Women’s sport was and never will be under threat. But the gender-critical lies will still flow, and the media will still push them out to create division and diversion. Sadly, just now, hate is winning.
But there’s a chink of light.
Ross Tucker et al are starting to be challenged both by scientists and sports professionals – some of his work is being seriously unpicked, particularly within the sport of Rugby.
In November 2022, The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport published a Scientific Review and one of the key Biomedical Findings states:
Available evidence indicates trans women who have undergone testosterone suppression have NO CLEAR biological advantages over cis women in elite sport.
Their research covered a period of ten years, and they were unable to find any valid reason why trans women should be barred from playing sport.
At around the same time, a video was shared by Ottawa Wolves Rugby Club, which roundly criticised Ross Tucker and the part he played in banning trans women. Fairness it seems went out of the window.
Ottowa Wolves Rugby Club Video
And on January 27, 2023, an open letter appeared on social media authored by former rugby international Sasha Acheson, highlighting the discrepancies in the process of banning trans women from playing Rugby in the female category.
An open letter (9 pages), sent to Bill Sweeny, RFU CEO, Tom Ilube, Chair of the RFU and Nigel Gillingham, RFU President.
— Sasha Acheson (@sashbambam) January 28, 2023
When it comes to sports, trans women are a wedge issue to drive transphobia and if you don’t believe me, how many medal winning UK trans sports stars, competing in the female category of sport can you name?