Longtime USA Swimming official QUITS in protest over Penn transgender student Lia Thomas

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A USA Swimming official has quit in protest over University of Pennsylvania transgender student Lia Thomas competing on the women’s swimming team, noting that ‘gender identities don’t swim.’

‘I don’t mean to be critical of Lia – whatever’s going on, Lia’s a child of God, a precious person – but bodies swim against bodies,’ Cynthia Millen, who has officiated USA Swimming events for three decades, told The Washington Times.

‘That’s a male body against females. And that male body can never change. That male body will always be a male body,’ she added.

Millen resigned on December 17 as she prepared to officiate at the US Paralympics Swimming National Championship in North Carolina, saying it dawned on her that she couldn’t ‘support this.’

Thomas, who was a three-year member of the men’s squad at Penn, joined the women’s team this year after she transitioned and completed the one year of testosterone suppression treatments, per NCAA guidelines.

Her addition to the women’s team has sparked outrage as she she’s smashed records and qualified for the NCAA championships in March.

In one race, she beat her teammate Anna Sofia Kalandadze in the 1,6500-yard freestyle by 38 seconds at the Zippy Invitational this month.

Millen called the winning margin ‘a lifetime in swimming.’

'I don't mean to be critical of Lia - whatever's going on, Lia's a child of God, a precious person - but bodies swim against bodies,' Cynthia Millen, who had officiated events at USA Swimming for three decades, said

‘I don’t mean to be critical of Lia – whatever’s going on, Lia’s a child of God, a precious person – but bodies swim against bodies,’ Cynthia Millen, who had officiated events at USA Swimming for three decades, said 

Lia Thomas, who was a three-year member of the men's squad at Penn, joined the women's team after she transitioned to female and completed the one year of testosterone suppression treatments, per NCAA guidelines

Lia Thomas, who was a three-year member of the men’s squad at Penn, joined the women’s team after she transitioned to female and completed the one year of testosterone suppression treatments, per NCAA guidelines

‘I told my fellow officials that I can no longer participate in a sport which allows biological men to compete against women. Everything fair about swimming is being destroyed,’ Millen penned in her letter.

‘If Lia came on my deck as a referee, I would pull the coach aside and say, ”Lia can swim, but Lia can swim exhibition or a time trial. Lia cannot compete against those women because that’s not fair,”’ she added.

Thomas’ coach Mike Schnur has been accused of having a win-at-any-cost attitude after turning a deaf ear to complaints from her teammates and other parents.

Millen said the burden is on coaches and swimming officials to advocate for what she deemed ‘fair competitions’ in which biological women are not at a disadvantage.

‘People are saying, ‘Why don’t the swimmers just leave?’ Well, those are 19-, 20-year-old kids,’ said Millen. ‘It’s up to us. We’re the ones who are supposed to be providing this fair competition. We should be the ones who should be saying, wait a minute.’ 

She also told The Washington Times she was not the only official who believed Thomas’ addition to the women’s swimming team at Penn was unfair, adding that most were afraid of repercussions if they voiced their real stances on the issue.

‘I’ve talked to some other officials, and while they say, “Yeah, this is ridiculous,” I think a lot of people feel like they can’t do anything about it,’ said Millen. ‘But you’ve got to make a stand sometimes. If enough people walk off the deck, or if enough referees say no, it will change. It’s wrong.’

The USA Swimming officiator veteran had previously appeared on FOX's The Ingraham Angle, saying that 'bodies swim against bodies' and 'gender identities don't swim'

The USA Swimming officiator veteran had previously appeared on FOX’s The Ingraham Angle, saying that ‘bodies swim against bodies’ and ‘gender identities don’t swim’

She added that USA Swimming leaders were concerned with losing sponsorships, and feared portraying the organization as non-inclusive.

‘But this is not being inclusive. This is being deceitful,’ Millen said.

Millen also voiced her protest to Thomas competing in women’s events during an appearance on FOX’s The Ingraham Angle, saying that ‘bodies swim against bodies’ and ‘gender identities don’t swim.’

‘Lia is a man who is swimming against women…Every time Lia jumps in the pool he’s competing against women. That is grossly unfair to all the women who have worked so hard,’ she told host Raymond Arroyo on Thursday.

‘Women biologically will never be faster than men.’

Millen added: ‘Yes, a Katie Ledecky can beat a lot of guys, but in the end, the [best] guys are going to beat Katie Ledecky. Absolutely. The differential is 8-12 percent faster. Equally trained, they will always win,’ said Millen. 

'The fact that that's still happening, that women are still losing to biological males in their own sport, shows why we need more female athletes to speak up about this,' Madison Kenyon said in a Wednesday interview with FOX News

‘The fact that that’s still happening, that women are still losing to biological males in their own sport, shows why we need more female athletes to speak up about this,’ Madison Kenyon said in a Wednesday interview with FOX News

Kenyon (right) and fellow ISU runner Mary Kate Marshall (left) filed a motion last May intervening against a challenge that threatened Idaho's Fairness in Women's Sports Act, which bans transgender athletes from competing against women regardless of how long they have taken gender-affirming hormones

Kenyon (right) and fellow ISU runner Mary Kate Marshall (left) filed a motion last May intervening against a challenge that threatened Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which bans transgender athletes from competing against women regardless of how long they have taken gender-affirming hormones

June Eastwood (pictured), the first transgender NCAA athlete to compete in Division 1 cross country, ran against and beat Kenyon and Marshall, knocking them down a placement level

June Eastwood (pictured), the first transgender NCAA athlete to compete in Division 1 cross country, ran against and beat Kenyon and Marshall, knocking them down a placement level

Millen’s comments came days after a female Idaho State University track athlete urged rivals of Thomas to speak out about the disadvantage they face in competing against ‘biological males.’

Madison Kenyon filed a motion in Idaho State Court last year along with teammate Mary Kate Marshall to intervene in a legal challenge to the state’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, the first legislation in the nation to bar transgender competitors assigned male at birth from competing in women’s sports. 

Kenyon described the experience of losing to ‘biological males’ on the field as ‘extremely deflating’ in a Wednesday morning interview with FOX News

‘The fact that that’s still happening, that women are still losing to biological males in their own sport, shows why we need more female athletes to speak up about this,’ she said. 

UPenn swim team recently posted about one of Lia Thomas's records in the 500m freestyle (pictured)

UPenn swim team recently posted about one of Lia Thomas’s records in the 500m freestyle (pictured)

‘I just want to say to the female athletes in Pennsylvania, don’t let anyone silence you. Speak up, tell the NCAA, your athletic directors and your coaches that you want fair competition, because speaking up about this is nowhere near as scary as it seems, and the amount of support is overwhelming.’

Thus far, the University of Pennsylvania swimmers and several parents have expressed their frustration at Thomas’s presence on the Ivy League team but have done so without providing their names.    

Thomas, who was a mediocre swimmer on the men’s team for two years before transitioning, broke two national records when she competed in the women’s events at the Zippy Invitational this month.  

Swimming World Editor-in-Chief John Lohn alleged in an op-ed published Sunday that the NCAA's one-year suppressant requirement is 'not nearly stringent enough to create a level playing field between Thomas and the biological females against whom she is racing'

Swimming World Editor-in-Chief John Lohn alleged in an op-ed published Sunday that the NCAA’s one-year suppressant requirement is ‘not nearly stringent enough to create a level playing field between Thomas and the biological females against whom she is racing’

America’s most respected swimming magazine also criticized the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) decision to let a transgender swimmer compete on the women’s team, saying her male-puberty affords her advantages akin to doping.  

Swimming World Editor-in-Chief John Lohn alleged in an op-ed published Sunday that the collegiate sports authority’s one-year suppressant requirement is ‘not nearly stringent enough to create a level playing field between Thomas and the biological females against whom she is racing’.

He argued her male-puberty advantages – including muscle building and other benefits stemming from testosterone naturally being produced in her body for nearly 20 years – do not disappear with a year’s worth of suppressants and instead afford her similar benefits that women who take steroids would have.

‘Despite the hormone suppressants she has taken, in accordance with NCAA guidelines, Thomas’ male-puberty advantage has not been rolled back an adequate amount,’ Lohn penned. ‘Consequently, Thomas dives into the water with an inherent advantage over those on the surrounding blocks.’

The journalist’s commentary came days after DailyMail.com learned Penn women’s swim team parents demanded the NCAA change the rules that permitted Thomas to dominate the competition and declared ‘at stake here is the integrity of women’s sports.’

He argued Thomas' male-puberty advantages do not disappear with a year's worth of suppressants and instead afford her similar benefits that women who take steroids would have (Pictured: Thomas competing at the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio on Dec. 3, 2021)

He argued Thomas’ male-puberty advantages do not disappear with a year’s worth of suppressants and instead afford her similar benefits that women who take steroids would have (Pictured: Thomas competing at the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio on Dec. 3, 2021)

Lohn – reiterating Thomas is not a doper – claims that being born male offers her a ‘clear-cut edge over the biological females against whom she is competing,’ specifically when it comes to strength.

‘She is stronger. It is that simple. And this strength is beneficial to her stroke, on turns and to her endurance. Doping has the same effect,’ the editor wrote. 

He compared Thomas’ strength to that of Olympic swimmers Kornelia Ender, Kristin Otto and Michelle Smith, all of whom were accused of using performance-enhancing substances during competitions.

‘Flash back to the 1970s and 1980s. When the likes of Ender and Otto powered through the water, en route to Olympic titles, they enjoyed a massive advantage over the competition. Babashoff couldn’t keep up. Neither could Brigitha. Why?’ questioned Lohn. 

‘They were competing against women who were fed steroids and reaped the rewards – most notably enhanced strength.’

He alleged Ender’s strokes were more powerful and efficient than those of her rivals, allowing her to cover more distance with each move.

The writer claimed Otto was able to push off the pool walls were greater force and that Smith maintained top speeds and endurance longer than her competitors.

‘Thomas enjoys similar advantages,’ he argued, citing that testosterone suppressants only account for an approximate 2 to 3 percent change in performance while the time difference between male and female swimming records is approximately 11 percent. 

The journalist - reiterating Thomas is not a doper - claims that being born male offers her a 'clear-cut edge over the biological females against whom she is competing,' specifically when it comes to strength

The journalist – reiterating Thomas is not a doper – claims that being born male offers her a ‘clear-cut edge over the biological females against whom she is competing,’ specifically when it comes to strength

Thomas (circled) is seen competing in the Zippy Invitationals in Akron, Ohio on Dec. 4, 2021. She finished 38 seconds ahead of her teammate in the 1,650 yard freestyle event

Thomas (circled) is seen competing in the Zippy Invitationals in Akron, Ohio on Dec. 4, 2021. She finished 38 seconds ahead of her teammate in the 1,650 yard freestyle event

Lohn then slammed the NCAA, alleging that organization – like Olympic officials did with doping athletes – has ‘turned a blind eye to the situation’.

‘Although positive tests were not typically returned, it didn’t take a genius to recognize that doping was at play. Administrators and referees swallowed their words, afraid of being branded for taking an accusatory stance,’ he said of previous incidents. 

‘The NCAA, it can be argued, has taken that same approach via its lax requirements related to transgender females.’

The editor also criticized Thomas for refusing to acknowledge the natural advantages she allegedly has over her opponents.

‘According to NCAA rules, Thomas has met expectations for participation. But for Thomas to suggest she does not have a significant advantage, as she did in one interview, is preposterous at best, and denial at worst,’ Lohn wrote.

‘Sure, it is on the NCAA to adjust its bylaws in the name of fair competition for the thousands of swimmers who compete at the collegiate level. It is also on Thomas to acknowledge her edge.’ 

The editor also criticized Thomas for refusing to acknowledge the natural advantages she allegedly has over her opponents

The editor also criticized Thomas for refusing to acknowledge the natural advantages she allegedly has over her opponents

Lohn concluded his essay by calling on the collegiate sport authority to respond to the Penn swimmers and their parents who spoke out against Thomas’ participation in competitions.

‘The NCAA needs to act, and it needs to act quickly,’ he said. ‘This scenario – with the effects of doping – cannot linger. For the good of the sport, and for fairness to those competing as biological women, a ruling must come down soon.’ 

On December 5, the parents of about 10 swimmers sent a letter to the NCAA and forwarded it to the Ivy League and University of Pennsylvania officials.

‘At stake here is the integrity of women’s sports,’ they wrote in the letter obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com. ‘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?

‘It is the responsibility of the NCAA to address the matter with an official statement,’ the parents continue. ‘As the governing body, it is unfair and irresponsible to leave the onus on Lia, Lia’s teammates, Lia’s coaches, UPenn athletics and the Ivy League. And it is unfair and irresponsible to Lia to allow the media to dictate the narrative without the participation of the NCAA.’

The NCAA has yet to respond to the letter. 

‘At stake here is the integrity of women’s sports,’ the parents wrote in the letter obtained by DailyMail.com

The university sent a terse response to the parents, claiming the school is doing what it can to help the student-athletes navigate Lia’s success, shared a link to mental health services

One parent, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions for herself and her daughter, told DailyMail.com, ‘The swimmers have mixed feelings. Many of them want to speak up, but they don’t because they believe they’ll be ostracized.

‘Everybody is scared,’ the mom added. ‘Parents are also scared that the kids will be harmed. We are paying $80,000 for this school. Their life will be impacted.’ 

The parents of about 10 swimmers banded together in October as Thomas’ advantage became clear.

An anonymous female UPenn swimmer said she and other teammates have discussed their frustration with Thomas'  place on their team with coach Mike Schnur (pictured) but said he 'just likes winning'

An anonymous female UPenn swimmer said she and other teammates have discussed their frustration with Thomas’  place on their team with coach Mike Schnur (pictured) but said he ‘just likes winning’ 

‘I think that transgender people have a right to compete, but they need to have their own league,’ one of the mothers told DailyMail.com Wednesday. ‘Being fair to one group of people shouldn’t take rights away from another group, and that’s what’s happening here.

‘The NCAA obviously didn’t think much about the rules they set,’ she added. ‘It’s not fair to the women on the team and it’s not fair to Lia as well. She went through transition, and I admire her bravery. But the records she sets now are not valued records, female records.’

The father of another swimmer on the team told DailyMail.com Tuesday night that the parent group is ‘consulting with people who are very in tune with these issues and plan to issue a statement shortly.’

While the parents sent the letters last week, they weren’t planning to share them publicly until after midterm exams, which are being held this week at UPenn.  

‘Our swimmers are already impacted by this situation,’ one mother said. ‘My daughter is unable to focus. We are trying to give the swimmers a break, with interims now.’ 

‘But I’m a fighter by nature and I feel uncomfortable being silent,’ she continued. ‘If everyone is silent, nothing is going to change. We’re giving the girls time for the midterms. Then we need to speak up as soon as possible.’ 

DailyMail.com has reached out to  the NCAA and UPenn for comment. 

Thomas (pictured in 2016) was a star swimmer in high school

Thomas (pictured in 2017) was a star swimmer in high school

Thomas (pictured in 2016 and 2017, respectively) was a star swimmer in high school 

Fellow University of Pennsylvania swimmer Anna Sofia Kalandaze

Thomas won the 1,650 freestyle in a record time of 15:59.71 beating her closest rival, Kalandaze, by 38 seconds

Fellow University of Pennsylvania swimmer Anna Sofia Kalandaze, pictured above, finished behind Thomas by 38 seconds in the 1,650-yard freestyle race

The university sent a terse response to the parents, claiming the school is doing what it can to help the student-athletes navigate Lia’s success, shared a link to mental health services. 

‘Please know that we fully support all our swimming student-athletes and want to help our community navigate Lia’s success in the pool this winter,’ the university replied. ‘Penn Athletics is committed to being a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our student-athletes, coaches and staff and we hold true to that commitment today and in the future.

How Lia Thomas’ times stack up against her bests as a male swimmer at UPenn and NCAA women’s records

Will 

200m free

1:39:31 

500m free

4:18:72 

1650m free

14:54:76 

Lia

200m free

1:41:93 

500m free

4:34:06 

1650m free

15:59:71 

NCAA

200m free

1:39:10 

500m free

4:24:06 

1650m free

15:03:31 

The current NCAA women’s records for those events are currently held by Olympic gold medalists. Missy Franklin holds the record for the 200 Free at 1:39:10. Katie Ledecky set the records for the 500 Free at 4:24:06 and the 1,650 Free at 15:03:31.  

Thomas said her pre-transition times are not an accurate gage for her ‘current ability’ but admitted that she did not train as often or as hard in her year off as she did when competing on the men’s team. 

‘We’ve encouraged our student-athletes to utilize the robust resources available to them at Penn, and I’d like to share them with you as well,’ the school wrote the parents, providing links to ‘counseling and psychological services, the LGBT Center, Restorative Practices and our Center for Student-Athlete Success staff.’ 

Earlier this month, Thomas broke two national records when she competed in the female races at the Zippy Invitational. She beat her teammate Anna Sofia Kalandadze out of first place by 38 seconds. She will be automatically entered to compete in the national championship meet in Atlanta in March 2022.

In the week after the Zippy Invitational, two of Thomas’ female UPenn teammates anonymously spoke out about their frustrations of having a transgender teammate, despite the entire team being ‘strongly advised’ not to speak to the media.

One of the swimmers told sports website OutKick that UPenn swimmers were upset and crying as they knew their times were going to be obliterated by her.

‘Usually everyone claps, everyone is yelling and cheering when someone wins a race,’ she said of the Zippy Invitational. ‘Lia touched the wall and it was just silent in there. When fellow Penn swimmer Anna Kalandadze finished second, the crowd erupted in applause.’

After the race, the teammate said, Thomas could be overheard bragging, ‘That was so easy, I was cruising,’ before adding, ‘At least I’m still No. 1 in the country.’

The mother who spoke with DailyMail.com said her daughter, who was not one of the two swimmers who spoke out, shared a similar account with her.

‘My daughter called me hysterically right after the meet,’ the mom recalled. ‘Everything that swimmer said during the interview, my daughter told me directly after the meet. The exact same words about how Lia was saying ‘I was just cruising. I did not do that well, but I’m still number one.’

‘That’s what the swimmers were upset about, the arrogance on the deck, her behavior, not her gender,’ the mother told DailyMail.com. ‘This was not team spirit. My daughter told me Lia had received a lot of understanding from teammates, and this behavior rubbed them the wrong way.

But the parents who got together said their gripe is not with Lia, or the school. They are concerned with the rules that allow Thomas to compete on the women’s team. 

Thomas previously competed on the UPenn men's swim team for three years as Will before transitioning. Will's times are seconds away from shattering women's world records

Thomas previously competed on the UPenn men’s swim team for three years as Will before transitioning. Will’s times are seconds away from shattering women’s world records 

Another anonymous female swimmer from UPenn told OutKick that she and most of her female teammates are upset because their coach, Mike Schnur, is allowing a transgender athlete to take a woman’s spot because he ‘just really likes winning.’

Thomas specifically notes Schnur’s support of her transition and switch to the woman’s team calling him one of her ‘biggest supporters and allies in this process since day one.’

Thomas also noted her teammates as a continued support system through her transition and the national criticism she has since faced.

But the first female swimmer to speak out, anonymously, told OutKick that support is ‘fake.’

‘When the whole team is together, we have to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, go Lia, that’s great, you’re amazing.’ It’s very fake,’ she said.

‘The Ivy League is not a fast league for swimming, so that’s why it’s particularly ridiculous that we could potentially have an NCAA champion. That’s unheard of coming from the Ivy League,’ the swimmer explained.

The controversy surrounding Thomas’ historic wins and place on the women’s team come as the nation continues to debate the place of transgender athletes.

Several states have proposed bills to outlaw transgender athletes from competing on teams that align with their gender but require athletes to compete against those of their biological sex or the sex listed on their birth certificate.



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