WATCH: ESPN honors trans-identified male swimmer Lia Thomas for Women’s History Month

"People will say, 'Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage so she could win.' I transitioned to be happy."

As part of a their celebration of Women’s History Month, ESPN highlighted former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male who identifies as female and joined the women's swimming team. Thomas went on the break women's swimming records and win titles and accolades.

Thomas’ wins during the 2021-22 NCAA women’s swim season caused a national outcry about the unfairness of transgender women competing against biological females.

The segment stated, “In 2022, swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I Championship by winning the 500 Freestyle. The Texas native competed for three seasons on the men’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania.”

Thomas said during the segment, “People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage so she could win.’ I transitioned to be happy.” 

Twelve-time All-American female swimmer Riley Gaines slammed the sports network for airing the segment promoting a biological male during ESPN’s feature “Celebrating Women’s History Month.”

Gaines wrote on Twitter, “Lia Thomas is not a brave, courageous woman who EARNED a national title. He is an arrogant, cheat who STOLE a national title from a hardworking, deserving woman.”

She continued, “The NCAA is responsible. If I was a woman working at ESPN, I would walk out. You’re spineless ESPN #boycottESPN”

On Thursday, the World Athletics Council announced that it won’t allow transgender athletes to compete against women in female World Rankings competitions by banning “male-to-female transgender athletes who have been through male puberty.”

World Athletics’ Sebastian Coe said regarding the decision, "We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage, which will inevitably develop over the coming years. As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount."

According to the organization, it consulted with Member Federations, the Global Athletics Coaches Academy and Athletes’ Commission, and the IOC when making its decision and that there was “little support within the sport for the option that was first presented to stakeholders, which required transgender athletes to maintain their testosterone levels below 2.5nmol/L for 24 months to be eligible to compete internationally in the female category.”

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