Michael Phelps calls Kia Thomas controversy ‘complicated,’ highlights need to ‘level playing field’

Olympic legend in swimming Michael Phelps gave his opinion regarding the growing debate about University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas last week.

He said the issue is “very complicated,” while he also noted that sports require an “even playing field” in order to be fair. 

Phelps, who is the most decorated Olympian in history, compared the controversy around Thomas to doping, and he added that he does not believe he has competed in a clean field throughout his entire career.

“I think this leads back to the organizing committees again,” the swimmer told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour during an appearance on Thursday. “Because it has to be a level playing field. I think that’s something that we all need. Because that’s what sports are and for me, I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Thomas, who was born male and has since begun to identify as a female, has been obliterating the competitions throughout this whole season. Thomas competed in the past three years on the school’s men’s team, but Thomas’ recent success as a part of the women’s team sparked criticism over the policy allowing transgender women to compete against biological women.

Parents at Penn along with women’s sports advocates recently spoke out against the NCAA and the agency’s rules regarding transgender student-athletes. Those rules require transgender women to only undergo one year of testosterone suppressing treatment before competing as part of a women’s team. 

Phelps added in the interview that while athletes should be afforded the opportunity to feel comfortable in their own skin, sports should be conducted on an “even playing field.”

He said, “I don’t know what it looks like in the future. But it’s hard. It’s very complicated and this is my sport, this has been my sport my whole career, and honestly, the one thing I would love is everybody being able to compete on an even playing field.” 




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