Alabama Swimmer Rhyan White Speaks Out Against NCAA’s Decision on Lia Thomas
The Alabama Crimson Tide women's swimming team made program history last week by finishing fourth place as a team in the 2022 NCAA Championships. While there is plenty to celebrate about the Tide's amazing string of performances, most of the focus has found a University of Pennsylvania swimmer who won the 500-yard freestyle championship.
Lia Thomas, 22, a fifth-year senior at Penn became the first openly transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming title. Thomas defeated Virginia's Emma Weyant by 1.75 seconds to win the 500-yard freestyle title. Thomas also competed in the 200-yard and 100-yard freestyle events, finishing tied for fifth and eighth respectively.
The NCAA has come under criticism for its decision to allow Thomas, and other transgender athletes, to compete with biological women. However, Thomas has undergone the hormone treatment to meet the neccessary necessary athletes.
One athlete who put her voice behind the criticism of the NCAA's decision was Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy. Gyorgy finished 17th and was one place shy of competing in the 500-yard freestyle B final.
Alabama swimmer and USA Olympic Silver Medalist Rhyan White has offered her support of Gyorgy and the second-place winner, Weyant. She posted on her Instagram story supportive comments on Gyorgy's open letter and declared Weyant the true winner of the event.
Thomas competed for three seasons for Penn's men's swimming team before transitioning in 2019. The Ivy league cancelled sports in 2020-21, therefore this has been her first season competing for the women's team.
Thomas set meet records at the Ivy League championships winning the 500, 200 and 100-yard freestyle and helping her teammates win the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The NCAA adopted rules in 2010 allowing transgender women to compete in athletics if they have undergone a year of testosterone suppression treatment.
The Penn swimmer faced controversy in her own locker room this season as a group of her teammates wrote a later stating Thomas has an, "unfair advantage" over the competition, yet still another group of teammates wrote a letter in "full support" of Thomas.
The NCAA is set to adopt new transgender rules in three phases that will be stricter on testosterone suppression with the third and final phase aligning the NCAA's policy with the USA Swimming policy.
The Crimson Tide finished as the highest placing SEC school in the NCAA Championships with a program record 288 program record, its best finish since 1983. However, Thomas and the controversy that followed her became the story that swam away with the headlines.