USA Swimming official Cynthia Millen has resigned in protest over the participation of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in women’s competitions, saying in her resignation letter that she can’t back a sport that allows “biological men to compete against women.”
The letter to USA Swimming indicates that Millen, who has been involved in the sport for roughly 30 years, resigned on Dec. 17.
“I told my fellow officials that I can no longer participate in a sport which allows biological men to compete against women,” Millen wrote in the resignation letter, Swimming World magazine reported.
“Everything fair about swimming is being destroyed. 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.’”
USA Swimming didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
Thomas, a 22-year-old University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team member who recently broke three women’s records in freestyle swimming, could be a women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title contender in a few months.
“Lia Thomas had another strong day in the pool for the Red and Blue,” Penn Athletics wrote on their website on Dec. 3. “During the prelims, she set a new pool and meet record in the 500 free. In the finals, she swam more than 12 seconds faster, finishing in first place with a time of 4:34.06. That time is currently the best in the country in the event.”
Formerly a member of the men’s swimming program, Thomas underwent hormone suppression and is in line with NCAA rules that allow transgender women to compete on NCAA women’s sports teams, according to Swimming World.
Thomas submitted hormone tests and doctor’s medical notes to the NCAA, and “they approved everything,” Thomas said in a Dec. 9 interview on the SwimSwam podcast. Thomas continues to take estrogen and a testosterone blocker and has “experienced a lot of muscle loss and strength loss.”
Asked about the pushback that has come with competing against biological women, Thomas said it was “expected,” but noted that the extent to which the issue has “blown up” was something of a surprise.
“I just don’t engage with it,” Thomas said of the criticism. “It’s not healthy for me to read it and engage with it at all, and so I don’t.”
Among the pushback was a blunt Dec. 19 editorial penned by John Lohn, editor-in-chief of Swimming World, the most prestigious swimming magazine in the United States. Lohn wrote that Thomas qualified for the women’s team after taking testosterone suppressants for barely one year, which is the NCAA’s minimum requirement for allowing biologically male transgender athletes to compete as women.
That rule “is not nearly stringent enough to create a level playing field between Thomas and the biological females against whom she is racing,” Lohn wrote.
“Thomas’ male-puberty advantage has not been rolled back an adequate amount,” he wrote. “The fact is, for nearly 20 years, she built muscle and benefited from the testosterone naturally produced by her body. That strength does not disappear overnight, nor with a year’s worth of suppressants.
“Consequently, Thomas dives into the water with an inherent advantage over those on the surrounding blocks.”
Swimming World’s editorial staff stated on Dec. 24 that Thomas’s performances demonstrate “a competitive advantage due to male puberty and years of testosterone production.”
Charlotte Allen contributed to this report.