Michael Phelps calls controversy surrounding Lia Thomas ‘very complicated,’ asks for ‘level playing field’

Michael Phelps asserts that he would like to see his favourite sport remain an even playing ground as the debate over inclusion of transgender swimmers rage.

Michael Phelps and Lia Thomas
Michael Phelps and Lia Thomas

The meteoric rise of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has sparked tensions among the swimming fraternity and legendary Olympian Michael Phelps bared his views on the issue. The 22-year-old transgender woman who represents the University of Pennsylvania has been making waves in the Ivy League with her record-breaking performances.

Lia swam for Penn’s men’s swimming team for three years in NCAA Division I competition before undergoing testosterone suppression therapy. After the Ivy League cancelled the 2020-21 season, she joined the women’s team and has been unstoppable ever since.

Her extraordinary success has sparked a storm over her participation. Thomas’ teammates have come forward to voice their concerns over the issue and their parents have even written letters questioning her participation.

“It has to be a level playing field,” Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps

Weighing in on the issue, Olympian Michael Phelps deemed it “very complicated.” The 28-time Olympic medallist Phelps is all about the inclusion of transgenders in the mainstream but is hesitant of the same when it comes to ‘his’ sport. The 36-year-old feels that level playing ground is the basic requirement when it comes to sport.

“I think this leads back to the organizing committees again,” Phelps told CNN. “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.”

“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 entire career, and honestly, the one thing I would love is everybody being able to compete on an even playing field,” Phelps said. 

The first US record was broken by Lia Thomas on December 3, when she won the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:34:06. On the very next day, the 22-year-old won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:41:93 – seven seconds ahead of her nearest rival, giving her the fastest female US time ever for that race too.

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