Brooke Forde, a swimming star for Stanford who also won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, expressed support for transgender swimmer Lia Thomas as her clearance to participate in the upcoming NCAA Championships remained unclear.
Thomas was thrust into the national spotlight amid the debate over whether transgender female athletes competing against biological females in college sports was unfair toward biological female athletes. Thomas set records at the Zippy Invitational and won a few races during Ivy League competition.
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But with the NCAA updating its transgender participation policy to defer guidelines to national governing bodies, Thomas’ status for the NCAA Championships in March was unclear.
‘I admire Lia’
Forde, 22, the Kentucky-born daughter of Sports Illustrated college football writer Pat Forde, gave her father a statement on the issue. He read the statement on his podcast earlier this week, according to SwimSwam.
“I have great respect for Lia. Social change is always a slow and difficult process, and we rarely get it correct right away. Being among the first to lead such a social change requires an enormous amount of courage and I admire Lia for her leadership that will undoubtedly benefit many trans athletes in the future,” Brooke Forde’s statement read.
“In 2020 I, along with most swimmers, experienced what it was like to have my chance to achieve my swimming goals taken away after years of hard work. I would not wish this experience on anyone, especially Lia who has followed the rules required of her. I believe that treating people with respect and dignity is more important than any trophy or record will ever be, which is why I will not have a problem racing against Lia at NCAAs this year.”
“I believe that treating people with respect and dignity is more important than any trophy or record will ever be.”
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Forde won silver in the 4×200-meter freestyle in the Olympics. She won a national championship in 2019 with Stanford.
The NCAA said last week its policy for transgender participation will be determined on a sport-by-sport basis. If there is no national governing body for the sport, then the NCAA sport will follow the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) policy.
The NCAA said the policy would start with the winter championships. The NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships are set for March 16-19 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta.
The updated policy for the NCAA says that, by March, “Transgender student-athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. Starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender student-athletes will need documented levels at the beginning of their season and a second documentation six months after the first. They will also need documented testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections. Full implementation would begin with the 2023-24 academic year.”
USA Swimming uses an eligibility review panel to make a decision on transgender athletes’ eligibility. Elite swimmers would be up to FINA and IOC policies. USA Swimming said in a statement it was working with FINA to update its own transgender policy.
The IOC updated its transgender participation policy in November 2021, refraining from the focus on testosterone levels to determine eligibility, according to The Washington Post. The IOC urged the governing bodies of each individual sport to create the rules while offering assistance.
“Every athlete has the right to practice sport without discrimination and in a way that respects their health, safety and dignity,” the updated rules stated. “At the same time the credibility of competitive sport — and particularly high-level sporting competitions — relies on a level playing field where no athlete has an unfair or disproportionate advantage over the rest.”
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Thomas would be eligible to compete in the Ivy League Championships and the ECAC Championships in February.