Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps at the 2017 Kids Choice Sports Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., July 13, 2017 (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

Swimming champion Michael Phelps recently called the controversy around Lia Thomas, the record-setting transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer, “very complicated” and stressed the need for a “level playing field” in swimming.

Playing on the women’s team this season after three years competing as a male, Thomas has set pool, program, and meet records, 38 seconds ahead of the next-closest female Penn swimmer in one event.

Phelps’s comments came during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last week when Amanpour asked the swimmer to react to the ongoing debate and Phelps likened it to his experience with doping in the sport, saying he does not think he has competed in a “clean field” in his “entire career.”

“I think this leads back to the organizing committees again,” said Phelps, who won 13 individual gold medals as an Olympic swimmer. “Because it has to be a level playing field. That’s something that we all need. Because that’s what sports are. For me, I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Reacting to ongoing debate over trans college athlete Lia Thomas competing on the women’s swimming team, “it’s very complicated,” says @MichaelPhelps. “We all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin. But I think sports should be played on an even playing field.” pic.twitter.com/brsq7t2vJW

— Christiane Amanpour (@amanpour) January 13, 2022

Phelps said that while he believes “we all should feel comfortable with who we are in our own skin” that he thinks “sports should all be played on an even playing field.”

“I don’t know what it looks like in the future,” he said. “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.”

NCAA rules currently permit Thomas to compete on the women’s team. The guidelines are focused primarily on hormone treatments and read: “A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.”

They do not take bone density, accumulated muscle mass, or other considerations into account.

NCAA guidelines claim, “many people may have a stereotype that all transgender women are unusually tall and have large bones and muscles. But that is not true. . . . The assumption that all male-bodied people are taller, stronger, and more highly skilled in a sport than all female-bodied people is not accurate.”

Now, Thomas could potentially win national championships and even compete for all-time NCAA records set by Olympic gold medalists Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky.

One of Thomas’s teammates who spoke to the Washington Examiner last week said Thomas “compares herself to Jackie Robinson.”

“She laughs about it and mocks the situation,” the anonymous teammate told the outlet. Instead of caring or showing that she cares about what she’s doing or what she’s doing to her teammates, she’s not sympathetic or empathetic at all. Lia never addressed our team. She never asked if it was OK. She never asked how we felt. She never tried to explain how she feels. She never has said anything to us as a group. She never addressed anything.”

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