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‘Women lost opportunities’ over NCAA trans policy: Athlete

(NewsNation) — A former teammate of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas says allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports undermines the integrity and fairness of those sports for biological female athletes.

“Every single girl that competed in an event [Lia] Thomas swam in lost an opportunity to advance further,” said Paula Scanlan, a former UPenn teammate of Thomas, in a Saturday interview on “NewsNation Prime.”

A group of current and former college athletes has filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, challenging its policy that allowed Thomas to compete in women’s events during the 2022 championships.

The suit, filed earlier this month, claims the NCAA violated Title IX rights by permitting Thomas to race against biological females. It argues Thomas, who previously swam for the University of Pennsylvania men’s team for three years before transitioning, held an unfair physical advantage.

Scanlan, who is not involved in the lawsuit but supports the action, described feeling discriminated against and unable to voice concerns about having to undress alongside Thomas. The NCAA offered “no opportunity” for discussion, instead suggesting athletes seek “psychological services” if troubled by the policy, Scanlan said.

“The girls were told that they had to undress in a locker room with a man that they were not comfortable doing so,” she said.

Scanlan believes allowing transgender females into women’s sports will “take away the integrity of the sport” by incentivizing coaches to recruit more male athletes who identify as women. Like when Lance Armstrong was stripped of cycling titles for doping, Scanlan argues Thomas’ medal and records should be reassigned with “asterisks.”

“If we’re going to have women’s sports, they need to be protected,” Scanlan stated. “I really don’t see this as being something that is that different from [doping].”

The lawsuit comes as several states have enacted laws restricting transgender athletes from competing in school sports based on their gender identity rather than biological sex at birth.

Proponents argue the laws ensure fair competition, while critics condemn them as discriminatory. The ACLU of Ohio notes that as of last March, only around 34 openly transgender athletes competed across all collegiate levels nationwide.

Scanlan countered those low participation numbers are not the only metric of concern, pointing to younger students displaced by transgender athletes before reaching college.

“If you play a sport in high school, your goal is to play at the NCAA level. So we need to make sure the NCAA sets that message,” Scanlan said. “It’s not Lia’s fault that Lia was competing on our team. It really is the fault of the people who put this policy into place.”