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NCAA must protect women competing with Lia Thomas

Sports have played a massive role in my life. From training in high school to winning the gold medal during America’s bicentennial year at the Olympic Games in 1976, I poured my heart and soul into achieving my dream of being the “Best Athlete in the World,” a title given to the individual who wins the decathlon.

But none of that came easy. I trained countless hours and sacrificed so much of myself to compete and win at the highest level. For a time, I felt sports and my Olympic accomplishments defined who I was as a person. But, eventually, I was fortunate enough to learn who I am and to live my life authentically when I came out as transgender.

That is why the case of transgender NCAA swimmer Lia Thomas has resonated so strongly with me. I have always said that Lia should live her life as authentically as possible. But my hope is that everyone — Lia, yes, but also biologically-born female athletes around the world — can feel that way every single day.

We must protect women’s sports. At all costs. What Lia has done, beating biological women to win a Division I national championship, is anathema to what sports represents and the spirit of competition.

Watching Lia completely dominate the competition was heartbreaking and maddening at the same time. My heart broke for the female athletes who worked their entire lives to reach the pinnacle of the sport just to have it overshadowed by this controversy. And I was mad because it did not have to be this way. The NCAA should have done the honorable thing to protect these women. It is their obligation to do so. Yet, the NCAA caved to the woke mob and refused to protect women, on all levels.

They failed to do exactly what their bylaws mandate. Title IX affirms protections for females against discrimination in “education programs or activities that receive federal funding, including sports. This means that federally funded institutions, such as public schools, are legally required to provide girls and boys with equitable sports opportunities.

And because we live in a cancel culture world, Lia’s University of Pennsylvania teammates and opponents were unable to speak freely about how they actually feel without fear of retribution from the intolerant left who would destroy their lives.

When did protecting women become such a controversial stance?

In April 2021, before we even knew who Lia was, I commissioned a survey from leading pollster Fabrizio Lee & Associates to better understand how citizens of California — the most liberal state in the union — truly feel about this important issue. By an overwhelming majority (48% to 37%), voters opposed biological boys participating in women’s sports in schools. Among Republicans, 84% were in opposition and, among Independents, 55%.

This is a massive cultural issue not only for the midterm elections, but for 2024 as well. This is why I will be working with candidates and political committees to find solutions that will protect women’s sports while respecting the decisions of those who live their lives authentically.

I also recently signed a deal to be a contributor with Fox News where I can use my voice to foster a dialogue on this issue. Legislation from either the state and federal level is likely needed to present a clear path towards ensuring women have the opportunities to thrive and achieve their dreams. In the US Senate, the “Protect Women and Girls in Sports Act” was recently introduced to set clear guidelines on protecting women’s sports.

In a few weeks time, I will be heading to Capitol Hill to discuss common-sense solutions with level-headed elected officials from both sides of the aisle. This issue is bigger than any single person. It is bigger than Lia Thomas. It is bigger than myself. This is about a generation of women who are under assault from the woke mob.

It is my hope that Lia reads this. I know this is not easy and it never will be. But someday, I hope we can have a conversation and discuss our shared experiences. You have a platform now and it is your responsibility to use it wisely.