An official for USA Swimming resigned from her job of over 30 years this month over what she believes is the unfair development of permitting transgender female swimmers to compete against biologically female swimmers.
What is the background?
University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas — a biological male now competing as a female — has generated controversy for demolishing her competition, which are biologically female swimmers.
Swimmers on the University of Pennsylvania’s female swimming team, along with parents, have voiced frustrations over what they believe are unfair circumstances.
Under NCAA rules, transgender athletes must complete one year of testosterone-suppression treatment before being able to compete as a transgender male athlete, which Thomas has completed. But Thomas still has a clear physiological advantage over the competition. Additionally, Thomas is a talented swimmer who earned the honor of being named a second-team All-Ivy League athlete while competing as a male during the 2018-2019 season.
What did the USA Swimming official say?
Cynthia Millen officiated for USA Swimming for more than 30 years. But, according to the Washington Times, she “hung up her whistle last week in protest” of Thomas.
Millen said she notified the governing body on Dec. 17 of her resignation as she was packing to officiate the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. Millen then withdrew from working the event.
In a letter, Millen told USA Swimming the fairness of competitive swimming “is being destroyed” by swimmers like Thomas.
“I told my fellow officials that I can no longer participate in a sport which allows biological men to compete against women. Everything fair about swimming is being destroyed,” Millen wrote.
In fact, Millen said that if she were officiating an event that included Thomas, she would have declared Thomas ineligible to compete against biological women.
“If Lia came on my deck as a referee, I would pull the coach aside and say, ‘Lia can swim, but Lia can swim exhibition or a time trial. Lia cannot compete against those women because that’s not fair,” Millen said.
The career swimming official explained that physiological differences between men and women are exposed in the swimming pool, such that the world’s best female swimmers — like Olympic champion Katie Ledecky — cannot compete against elite male swimmers.
“Boys are built differently than girls. I mean, we know that: Boys have the T-shape, the broad shoulders, the narrow hips,” Millen said. “Girls have the hips, they’ve got more drag, they’ve got boobs, they’ve got body fat.”
“Yes, a Katie Ledecky can beat a lot of guys, but in the end, the [best] guys are going to beat Katie Ledecky. Absolutely. The differential is 8-12% faster. Equally trained, they will always win,” Millen explained.
Millen told the Washington Times that other swimming officials agree with her, but fear retaliation if they speak out.
“I’ve talked to some other officials, and while they say yeah, this is ridiculous, I think a lot of people feel like they can’t do anything about it,” Millen said. “But you’ve got to make a stand sometimes. If enough people walk off the deck, or if enough referees say no, it will change. It’s wrong.”
Speaking about USA Swimming, Millen said, “I haven’t heard anything. I think they are so worried themselves. They get a lot of sponsorship money from a lot of big companies, and I think they’re worried. They don’t want to appear that they’re not being inclusive, but this is not being inclusive. This is being deceitful.”