Olympic and NCAA champions demand action to protect women’s swimming, says NCAA’s response is not good enough

“Since the adoption of Title nine, 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,” former NCAA champion Marshi Smith told Fox News. “It’s something that has motivated us to speak out publicly.”

In their letter the group of almost 40 retired swimmers which includes Olympians, a head coach and USA Swimming national team director, and many NCAA champions, raised a number of concerns regarding the fairness of allowing trans-athletes to compete alongside women and offered solutions to secure the integrity of women’s sports.

“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 reads. 

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas accepts the winning trophy for the 500 Freestyle finals as second place finisher Emma Weyant and third place finisher Erica Sullivan watch during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 17th, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia. 

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas accepts the winning trophy for the 500 Freestyle finals as second place finisher Emma Weyant and third place finisher Erica Sullivan watch during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 17th, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia.  (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas won the 500-meters freestyle competition in March, becoming the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I. Following Thomas’s win, Smith said she and other former Arizona swimmers decided to come together and speak out 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.”

“We are asking the NCAA, do we have a voice?” Smith said.

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Smith started swimming at age six and said she immediately fell in love with the sport. She swam at the University of Arizona on a full athletic scholarship and in 2005 won the NCAA 100-meter backstroke championship.

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

While the NCAA has yet to respond to the group’s letter, Smith received a reply from the organization’s president Mark Emmert in response to a letter she individually sent prior to this year’s Swimming & Diving championship.

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas swims in the 500 Freestyle finals during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 17th, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia.  

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas swims in the 500 Freestyle finals during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 17th, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia.   (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In the written response Emmert writes, “the Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports.” 

The letter continues, “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.” 

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“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 told Fox News.

Georgia Tech's 'Grad Pride'  club attended the protest to show support for trans-athletes Lia Thomas and Iszac Henig

Georgia Tech’s ‘Grad Pride’  club attended the protest to show support for trans-athletes Lia Thomas and Iszac Henig (Fox News Digital )

Smith said the group of swimmers is “very suspicious of the science that the NCAA is using to determine the metrics that allow a biological male to compete directly with females.” 

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“The experience and wisdom of these women is really unmatched,” she continued. “We have determined that the best course of action right now would be to err on the side of fairness across the board and that means that women are not asked to forfeit our titles, records, scholarships at this point,” Smith said.

As a solution to the issue of trans-athlete inclusion, she said “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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