A ridiculous spectacle. But the silver lining is that it’s so ridiculous that it’s already led USA Swimming and the NCAA to change their rules.

Lia Thomas was a middling male swimmer before she began to transition a few years ago. Now, as a trans woman, she’s a juggernaut. She set the pool record at Harvard in the 500-yard freestyle last night and it wasn’t even her best time of the year. Two months ago, at an event in Ohio, she set the fastest times of the entire NCAA season in the 200-yard and 500-yard, qualifying her for the NCAA Championships. There’s a good chance if not an overwhelming probability that Thomas will end up a national champion — in multiple events.

Watch this clip, in which Thomas finishes seven seconds ahead of the second-place finisher and is already relaxing in the pool by the time her nearest competitor catches up. The sport has become a farce. But Penn has no choice but to celebrate the achievement under the “emperor’s new clothes” ethic of pretending that absolutely nothing, nothing is amiss in letting trans women compete athletically with women.

It’s disorienting to see the premise of a “South Park” episode play out in real life.

Sixteen of Thomas’s teammates at Penn decided they can’t go on pretending that this is fair — but they also know how ruthless activists are about enforcing progressive orthodoxy on this topic of all topics. To call out Thomas publicly would be a life-ruining transgression potentially. So a few weeks ago they called on the NCAA to bar Thomas from the national championship meet — anonymously:

“We fully support Lia Thomas in her decision to affirm her gender identity and to transition from a man to a woman. Lia has every right to live her life authentically,” the letter read. “However, we also recognize that when it comes to sports competition, that the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity. Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female. If she were to be eligible to compete against us, she could now break Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete.”

Thomas’s teammates did not identify themselves in the letter. It was sent by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a 1984 Olympic swimming gold medalist, lawyer and chief executive of Champion Women, a women’s sports advocacy organization. She said in a telephone interview that she sent the letter on the swimmers’ behalf so they could avoid retaliation; in the letter, the swimmers claim they were told “we would be removed from the team or that we would never get a job offer” if they spoke out against Thomas’s inclusion in women’s competition.

The current NCAA policy on trans athletes was set in 2010 and requires suppressing testosterone levels below a certain threshold for a year. Hogshead-Makar told WaPo that that science is outdated: “[T]here’s been a lot more science on it, more research on it, and it shows that in many cases that … you cannot roll back [male puberty]; you can’t take any medication to overcome what male puberty gives you.” If you doubt that, go look at the photos of the broad-shouldered Thomas at yesterday’s meet.

Rule changes are in motion. USA Swimming decided recently that testosterone levels will no longer be the sole criterion of whether a trans woman can compete. Effective immediately, the organization will consult a three-expert panel to assess whether “prior physical development of the athlete as a male” has provided an unfair competitive advantage. But that change isn’t enough to disqualify Thomas from the NCAA Championships, as the NCAA has announced that it won’t implement USA Swimming’s rules until the 2023-24 academic year. So long as Thomas continues to meet the current benchmarks for testosterone, she’s free to compete.

I wonder how the NCAA is feeling today about the prospect of Thomas winning by Katie-Ledecky-ish margins in the NCAA finals. They’ll never admit it but it’s likely that they’re quietly hoping she finishes no higher than second, just to spare the sport from a new round of criticism. And there might be a few Democratic officials out there feeling the same way, as I’m guessing this issue has some political salience. No one’s going to let their vote this fall be decided by the Lia Thomas saga, of course, but knowing that the left not only condones this unfairness but would seek to punish those who oppose it is another data point for the belief that the inmates are running the Democratic asylum. Not a good place to be nine months out from a midterm.

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