Olympic swimmer Brooke Forde says she would welcome a race against her rival NCAA competitor Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania who garnered national attention for dominating records last year.
While a number of former Olympians and U.S. National Team swimmers have thrown their support behind Thomas, Forde became the first collegiate rival to weigh in on the conversation on whether Thomas should be permitted to compete in women’s events.
“I believe that treating people with respect and dignity is more important than any trophy or record will ever be, which is why I will not have a problem racing against Lia at NCAAs this year,” Forde said in a statement read by her father, sportswriter Pat Forde, on Tuesday’s episode of the College Football Enquirer podcast.
“I have great respect for Lia. Social change is always a slow and difficult process and we rarely get it correct right away,” Forde, who is currently a grad student at Stanford, said.
“Being among the first to lead such a social change requires an enormous amount of courage, and I admire Lia for her leadership that will undoubtedly benefit many trans athletes in the future,” she added.
Forde is currently ranked third nationally behind Thomas and Arizona State’s Emma Nordin and is expected to face off against the UPenn swimmer in March.
Thomas previously competed on the men’s team before transitioning and began competing on the women’s team in the 2021-2022 season.
In December, she won the 1,650-yard freestyle at the Zippy Invitational by more than 38 seconds.
“I admire Lia for her leadership that will undoubtedly benefit many trans athletes in the future,” Brooke Forde said about her competition Lia Thomas. Above, Thomas walks to the pool to swim for the for the University of Pennsylvania at a meet against Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on January 22, 2022.
However, the controversy surrounding Thomas’ transition, which began in May 2019, has prompted the NCAA to adopt a new policy for transgender student athletes.
The new regulations, which took effect last week, will require transgender student athletes who identify as female to document and meet sport-specific testosterone levels at the start of the season, six months later and then four weeks before their championship selections.
Previously, the NCAA required transgender female athletes to complete one year of testosterone suppression treatment before competing, although levels were never regularly checked.
Forde said she understands how it feels to have her sport taken away, pointing to the postponing of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and said that she wouldn’t want Thomas to feel that loss either.
“In 2020, I along with most swimmers, experienced what it was like to have my chance to achieve my swimming goals taken away after years of hard work. I would not wish this experience on anyone, especially Lia, who has followed the rules required of her,” Forde said.
During Tuesday’s podcast, her father said most of the people who have taken a sudden interest in women’s swimming had never watched the sport before, but are using Thomas as a way to spin their agenda.
“It is funny. Some of the folks who are really wound up about this and screaming about the fairness about women’s sports really don’t give a damn about women’s sports,” Pat Forde said. “They are using this as a political wedge issue, and they are using it as a sign the country has absolutely run amok and has lost its mind to political correctness and blah, blah, blah. There are a lot of political opinions about this, but some of them are cloaked, I think, in bogus terms.”
Thomas is set to race in the women’s 200-yard, 500-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle at the 2022 NCAA swimming and diving championships.