Sports Must 'Be Played on Even Playing Field': Olympic Swimming Legend Michael Phelps Addresses Transgender Controversy

Sports Must 'Be Played on Even Playing Field': Olympic Swimming Legend Michael Phelps Addresses Transgender Controversy

Biological males should not be competing with biological females in sports, according to a growing number of current and former high-level athletes.

That now includes Olympics swimming legend Michael Phelps, who waded into the controversy involving transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male and University of Pennsylvania competitor who has undergone a year of testosterone suppression therapy but is continuing to dominate all-female competitions.

Currently, NCAA rules require at least a year of the therapy, but critics — and a growing number of scientific studies — say that despite the treatment, Thomas still retains an unfair advantage, though ironically, ‘she’ was defeated by a transgender male swimmer from Yale last week.

In an interview with CNN host Christiane Amanpour, Phelps said that sports must “be played on an even playing field,” something Thomas’s critics say isn’t attainable when a biological male completes against biological females.

“Look, like, I will say — I can talk from a standpoint of doping. I don’t think I have competed in a clean field in my entire career,” Phelps said. “So, I think this leads back to the organizing committees again, because it has to be a level playing field.

“I think that’s something that we all need, because it’s — like, that’s what sports are,” Phelps noted further. “And, for me, I don’t know where this is going to go.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he added. “I believe that we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin. But I think sports should all be played on an even playing field. I don’t know what that looks like in the future. But it’s hard.”

Phelps, who won 23 Olympic gold medals in his career, said that the situation is “very complicated” but added that there should be fairness in all sports competitions.

“This has been my sport my whole entire career. And I — honestly, the one thing I would love is everybody to be able to compete on an even playing field. That’s all I can say,” Phelps said.

Thomas made headlines again after allegedly comparing herself to Jackie Robinson, a black player who broke the color barrier in professional baseball and became the first black to be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

“She compares herself to Jackie Robinson. She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports,” one of Thomas’ teammates told the Washington Examiner.

“She laughs about it and mocks the situation. Instead of caring or showing that she cares about what she’s doing or what she’s doing to her teammates, she’s not sympathetic or empathetic at all,” the teammate added.

“Lia never addressed our team. She never asked if it was OK. She never asked how we felt. She never tried to explain how she feels. She never has said anything to us as a group. She never addressed anything,” the teammate went on.

Several studies in recent years have found that only requiring a year of testosterone suppression therapy for a man transitioning to a woman is not sufficient to ensure there is fairness in women’s sports.

For instance, a study that the Macdonald–Laurier Institute, a Canadian think tank, released last month argued that “there is neither a medical intervention nor a clever philosophical argument that can make it fair for trans women to compete in women’s sport.” The study recommended finding other ways to include transgender women in sports competitions.

“For trans women who have successfully suppressed testosterone for 12 months, the extent of muscle/strength loss is only an approximately (and modest) -5% after 12 months,” the authors noted. “Testosterone suppression does not remove the athletic advantage acquired under high testosterone conditions at puberty, while the male musculoskeletal advantage is retained.”


Join the Newsletter