Michael Phelps: NCAA’s Lia Thomas issue shows need for level playing field
Michael Phelps says the controversy surrounding transgender NCAA swimmer Lia Thomas is “very complicated.”
Thomas, a transgender swimmer on the women’s team at the University of Pennsylvania, competed for three years as a male. NCAA bylaws permit transgender athletes to compete as women if they have undergone testosterone suppression for a year.
Phelps, appearing with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last week, spoke to the issue as one of doping, saying he doesn’t believe he’s competed in a fair field in his whole career.
“I think this leads back to the organizing committees again,” Phelps said. “Because it has to be a level playing field. That’s something that we all need. Because that’s what sports are. For me, I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Thomas has been demolishing female competition. There is a chance she could not only win national championships, but compete for all-time NCAA records set by Olympic gold medalists Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky.
None of Thomas’ teammates have spoken on the record about their opinion on the matter, though some have chosen to do so anonymously to voice their concerns.
“She compares herself to Jackie Robinson. She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports,” one of Thomas’ teammates told the Washington Examiner last week. “She laughs about it and mocks the situation. Instead of caring or showing that she cares about what she’s doing or what she’s doing to her teammates, she’s not sympathetic or empathetic at all. Lia never addressed our team. She never asked if it was OK. She never asked how we felt. She never tried to explain how she feels. She never has said anything to us as a group. She never addressed anything.”
Phelps, who won 13 individual gold medals as an Olympic swimmer, continued to advocate for a level playing field in swimming.
“I believe that we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin, but I think sports should all be played on an even playing field,” he said. “I don’t know what it looks like in the future. It’s hard. It’s very complicated and this is my sport, this has been my sport my whole entire career, and honestly the one thing I would love is everybody being able to compete on an even playing field.”