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24th Mar 2022

People think trans swimmer Lia Thomas has an unfair advantage – data suggests otherwise

Danny Jones

Stats suggest Lia Thomas doesn't have an advantage over cisgender female athletes

The debate over trans athletes rages on

Lia Thomas has been labelled a controversial sporting figure amid her success in the NCAA swimming championships but while many argue that the transgender athlete has an unfair advantage over those born female, the stats aren’t exactly there to back it up.

As per research by the Independent, aside from having undergone hormone replacement therapy since 2019, while Thomas’ results were impressive, they weren’t record-breaking.

In fact, in 27 all-time NCAA records broken in the competition overall – a whopping 18 were broken by Kate Douglass of the University of Virginia – while Thomas’s times weren’t amongst them whatsoever.

Thomas won the women’s 500-yard freestyle race in 4m 33.24s, a title which she had stripped after a decision from Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. She also came fifth in the 200-yard race (1m 43.40s) and eighth in the 100-yard race (48.40s).

Regardless, according to USA Swimming records, the Floridian swimmer’s 500-yard time is just above average and makes her the 15th fastest college swimmer, about nine seconds behind Katie Ledecky’s leading record set in 2017.

Meanwhile, both her 200 and 100-yard times are just below average (47.06s and 1m 42.85 respectively). Pre transition, she was also more than 10 seconds off the male record.

The Independent aren’t the only ones to notice the statistical gap:

Many are also pointing out that her other finishes in the 100 and 200-yard events don’t exactly chime with the supposed “dominance” many fear she may establish:

Many have also highlighted the stark contrast between this case and South African runner Caster Semenya, who was banned from competing in women’s events despite being born a female because of high testosterone levels – something she refused to take medication to reduce.

On the other hand, some believe that a physical advantage may not necessarily be the single, driving factor:

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