Olympic and NCAA champions speak out to protect women’s swimming: ‘Do we have a voice?’

In the wake of trans-athlete Lia Thomas’s win at this year’s NCAA Women’s Championship in March, a group of swimmers from the University of Arizona has written a letter to the NCAA to express their deep concerns over the state of their beloved sport.

“Do we have a voice?” the swimmers asked the NCAA Board of Governors.

“It’s hard to express the anguish the women’s swim community has experienced this past week watching the 2022 NCAA Swim & Dive Championships,” the letter continued. “On one hand, we feel we are witnessing irrevocable damage to a sport that has transformed our own identities for the better. On the other, we have reconnected with each other in a sisterhood after many busy years living our lives beyond the water’s edge.”

As reported in American Wire News, Thomas won the 500 free event at the Championships by 1.75 seconds. In the qualifier, she beat the runner-up by 2.97 seconds — a greater gap than the one that separated second and 11th place in the same event.

 

The University of Arizona alumni expressed gratitude for the many women “who have stood up to publicly speak up in protest” of the NCAA’s policies on transgender athletes competing against biological women and stated it was “a thoughtful letter” from UT’s swim alumni to their Athletic Director that inspired them “to write from the University of Arizona alumni perspective.”

Former NCAA champion Marshi Smith points to the adoption of Title IX, which strives “for gender equity in intercollegiate athletics” and says future swimmers could be robbed of the opportunity to succeed.

“Since the adoption of Title IX, young mothers like myself… and most of the women from the University of Arizona on our list have small children — for the first time ever we feel like our daughters may not have the same opportunities for success that we did,” Smith told Fox News.

Smith said she and the other former Arizona swimmers decided to join forces because, “individually we felt like we didn’t have a voice.”

“We weren’t being asked our opinions or possible solutions to what was going on,” Smith continued. “We are asking the NCAA, do we have a voice?”

Smith won the NCAA 100-meter backstroke championship in 2005. She took to the water at the tender age of six and by the time she was swimming at the University of Arizona, she was on a full athletic scholarship.

“If you’re not a swimmer, you don’t understand really how close each race can be,” Smith said, adding that she won her title by just .03 of a second. “It’s crucial in swimming, every single centimeter really counts.”

In the letter, the swimmers cite Duke’s Center for Sports Law and Policy, which stated that “there’s an average 10-12% performance gap between elite males and elite females” in sport.

“What advantage does testosterone have for natural born males in swimming specifically?” the swimmers asked. “This year in the 500 freestyle the men’s A standard qualifying time is 4:11.62. The women’s A standard qualifying time was 4:35.76. That is a difference of 24.14 seconds.”

“To put that into perspective,” the letter states, “the male swimmer in the last seed going into the meet would be two full laps ahead of his female counterpart in this event.”

In addition to the group letter — which was signed by nearly 40 retired swimmers, including a head coach and USA Swimming national team director, former Olympians, and many NCAA champions — Smith, prior to the Swimming & Diving championship, wrote a personal letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert.

The group letter has yet to receive an NCAA response, but to Smith, Emmert wrote, “the Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports.”

Emmert stated, “the NCAA’s current policy is anchored in the evolving science on this issue and in the sport-specific policies of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s national governing bodies.”

“A policy anchored in evolving science is not a good enough explanation to women athletes as to why a biological man competing in female sports is fair,” Smith said.

As a possible solution to the controversial issue, Smith asked, “can we offer the suggestion that men be asked to welcome this new class of athlete of any gender into their category?”

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