A longtime USA Swimming official resigned last week in protest of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, saying she could no longer work for or support an organization that allows biological men to compete against women.
Cynthia Millen, who had officiated USA Swimming meets for nearly 30 years, said in her resignation letter that it was blatantly unfair for Thomas, a 22-year-old transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, to compete against women who do not have his physical stature.
“I can’t do this,” she wrote. “I can’t support this. 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.”
Thomas competed on the university’s male swim team for three years before transitioning as a transgender to the female swim team. He underwent a year of testosterone-blocking hormone therapy but is still crushing national female swim records. He is even on pace to beat records set by Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin, two of the best female swimmers of all time.
“If Lia came on my deck as a referee,” Millen said, “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.'”
Millen also encouraged other swimming officials to take a stand and refuse to officiate meets in which biological males are being allowed to compete against women.
“This is not right because by doing this, we’re supporting this,” she said. “There are no swim meets if there are no officials.”
The “adults in the room” need to step up and defend the right to fair competition, she continued.
“People are saying, ‘Why don’t the swimmers just leave?’ Well, those are 19-, 20-year-old kids,” Millen said. “It’s up to us. We’re the ones who are supposed to be providing this fair competition. [The swimming authorities] should be the ones who should be saying, ‘Wait a minute.'”
A couple of Thomas’s teammates have spoken out about the controversy anonymously, saying the school has discouraged them from speaking to the media. One female swimmer said everyone on the team knows that what is happening is unfair, but school officials don’t want to do anything about it.
“Pretty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this. Our coach [Mike Schnur] just really likes winning. He’s like most coaches. I think secretly everyone just knows it’s the wrong thing to do,” the female Penn swimmer said.