Martina Navratilova, the tennis icon, stated in a new interview that the University of Pennsylvania’s record-breaking transgender swimmer’s name should have an “asterisk” next to it.
The 59-time Grand Slam Champion’s remarks appeared on News Nation on Thursday night, the same day Lia Thomas won the women’s 500-yard NCAA championship.
She also stated that the NCAA must ensure that its athletes have a level playing field.
“It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning ever,” Navratilova said. “But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men. But right now, the rules are what they are. Maybe put an asterisk there, if she starts breaking records left and right.”
Navratilova proposed that the NCAA create a category in which only biological females compete against one other, followed by an “open category” for the rest of the field.
Many classmates of Thomas felt similarly and sent a letter to the school and Ivy League stating that Thomas should not be able to compete. It stated in part, “Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female.”
Other classmates supported Thomas who was ultimately allowed to participate as a woman and took home gold.
Thomas won the Thursday event in 4:33.24, setting a record as the first transgender person to win an NCAA title. Thomas swam for the University of Pennsylvania for three years as a male before transitioning, failing to secure a single title.
Thomas spoke with ESPN shortly after the race but declined to take part in the NCAA-mandated press conference. Because participation is required, the NCAA’s swimming and diving championships committee may take action after an evaluation is conducted.