A 30-year veteran official of USA Swimming resigned this month after a biological male competed against biological female swimmers. Cynthia Millen “hung up her whistle” last week in protest of male swimmer Lia Thomas.
Lia Thomas is a biological male who competes on the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team. Thomas recently blew her competition out of the water by breaking multiple schools and conference records. Thomas had competed on the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s team for the 2018-2019 season.
The NCAA rules state that any transgender athlete must complete at least one year of testosterone-suppressant treatment before being allowed to compete as a transgender male. Thomas completed one year of treatment before joining the women’s swimming team. Thomas has a physiological advantage over his teammates even with the testosterone treatment.
Millen notified her governing body on December 17 of her decision to resign. She was supposed to officiate the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Championships but withdrew from working the event.
Millen issued a letter detailing her decision to quit. She wrote:
“I told my fellow officials that I can no longer participate in a sport which allows biological men to compete against women. Everything fair about swimming is being destroyed.”
Millen noted that if she were officiating an event that included Thomas, she would declare him ineligible to compete with women. Millen said, “If Lia came on my deck, as a referee, I would pull the coach aside and say, ‘Lia can swim, but Lia can swim exhibition or a time trial. Lia cannot compete against those women because that’s not fair.”
According to Millen, the world’s best female swimmer, Katy Ledecky, can’t fairly compete against the world’s best male athletes. She continued that the differential makes men 8-12% faster.
“Boys have the T-shape, the broad shoulders, the narrow hips,” Millen said. “Girls have the hips, they’ve got more drag, they’ve got boobs, they’ve got body fat. Equally trained,[men] will always win.”
Millen noted that she is not the only official who believes this is unfair, but others fear retaliation if they speak out.
She said, “I think a lot of people feel like they can’t do anything about it. But you’ve got to make a stand sometimes. If enough people walk off the deck, or if enough referees say no, it will change. It’s wrong.”
Some frustrated parents wrote letters to UPenn and the NCAA regarding the situation. Two UPenn swimmers complained anonymously as well.
Millen thinks that USA Swimming has not spoken out about the issue because they fear losing many of their corporate sponsorships.