Swimming: New controversy in the United States after a transgender swimmer’s historic victory

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In Atlanta (Georgia), Lia Thomas won the women’s 500-yard freestyle final in the colors of the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday evening. The male-born student finished the final 4’34″99 more than a second and a half ahead of Emma Weyant and finished 4′ 34″99 in the final, becoming the first trans swimmer to win a university championship.

Erica Sullivan, who won a silver medal in the 1,500m at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, finished third in 4’35″92. Lia Thomas, who previously competed as a man, has divided public opinion in America Critics believe she has an unfair physiological advantage, while supporters believe she has an unfair physiological advantage. she believes she should be allowed to compete freely as a woman.

podium photo

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A photo released on Friday is meaningful and is shaking social networks across Europe: Thomas holding his trophy in his arms, a wary smile, straight on the first rung of the podium; A few yards away, the second Weyant, the third Sullivan, and the fourth Brooke Forde gathered together, and at the third step everyone smiled and protested. By the pools of the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, the contrast between the polite applause for Thomas on Thursday and the crowds raving over his three followers was striking.

I try to ignore it as much as possible.“reacted to the winner, assured”I’m happy to be here just trying to give the best (of himself) in the competitionHe even had the best time of the series with a time of 4’33″82 and is one of the 200-yard favorites on Friday. Lia Thomas, a 22-year-old student, was held on February 18 at a meeting attended by eight of the most prestigious American universities including Harvard, Yale and Cornell. Won the Ivy League women’s 500-yard freestyle at the competition.

testosterone threshold

Not without controversy in this very competitive environment in the United States, the university had received the green light from sports officials. In February, the swimming governing body in the United States, Swimming USA, announced new guidelines that provide a tighter threshold for athletes’ testosterone levels – which was widely believed to be more difficult to participate. Lia Thomas in major competitions. . But the NCAA, which governs college sports, said at the time that they would not enforce these stricter rules and would allow Thomas to compete in Atlanta since March 16.

At the beginning of the year, Lia Thomas was challenged at the university club. Some of his co-athletes wrote down the presumed advantages associated with his morphology and urged strengthening of the rules for transgender athletes. At the opposite camp, 300 active and retired swimmers took a position in Thomas’ favor, including Sullivan, who finished third on Thursday.

No scientific consensus

The debate began at the end of 2021 after the very good results of Lia Thomas, who entered the women’s category this season after competing in the men’s category. This raises the question of the place of these athletes between the concern for inclusivity and the preservation of equity in sport. After a transgender athlete’s first participation in the Tokyo Olympics in weightlifting, this is a headache for sports establishments. In November, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) passed each sport and said, “Scientific consensus on the role of testosterone in performance in all sports“.

The debate is also political in the US. Several conservative states have recently passed laws that prevent young transgender girls from playing women’s sports at school. “We will ban men from participating in women’s competitions“, declared former Republican President Donald Trump during a rally in Arizona on January 15.

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