Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps weighed in on the debate over transgender athletes, telling CNN everyone should “feel comfortable” in their “own skin,” but said the sports world needs “to be a level playing field.”
Phelps made the comments after CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked the legendary Olympian about University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male who identifies as female. The question to Phelps comes as several UPenn athletes have spoken out about the fairness of allowing Thomas to compete on the women’s team.
“I mean, 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 told Amanpour. “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. And, for me, I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I believe that we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin, but I think sports should all be played an even playing field. I don’t know what that looks like in the future. But it’s hard. It’s a really — honestly, I don’t know what to say.”
He went on to say the situation is “very complicated” but reiterated the importance of establishing “an even playing field” for all athletes, regardless of their sexual or gender identities.
Thomas, who has shattered a whole host of records previously held by biological females, was finally bested earlier this month by another competitor, a Yale University swimmer who also identifies as transgender but is still competing on the team that correlates with her biological sex.
A parent of a student at UPenn described the transgender situation as “messed up,” adding, “I can’t wrap my head around this. The NCAA needs to do something about this. They need to put science into the decision and discussion.”
Both UPenn and The Ivy League, though, recently reaffirmed their respective commitments to the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s swimming.
“The Ivy League reaffirms its unwavering commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all student-athletes while condemning transphobia and discrimination in any form,” the Ivy League statement read. “The league welcomes her participation in the sport of women’s swimming and diving and looks forward to celebrating the success of all our student-athletes throughout the season.”