Fact Check

Did US Olympics Women's Teams Threaten to Quit Over Trans Athlete Lia Thomas Try-Out?

This rumor originated from a website that describes its output as satirical.

Published July 27, 2023

Lia Thomas looks on after winning the Women's 500 Yard Freestyle during the 2022 NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Comer / NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Lia Thomas looks on after winning the Women's 500 Yard Freestyle during the 2022 NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championship in Atlanta, Georgia. (Image courtesy of Photo by Mike Comer / NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
U.S. Olympic athletes are threatening to quit en masse if swimmer Lia Thomas, who is a transgender woman, is allowed to try out for women's teams.

Out-of-context screenshots were making the rounds on Facebook in early July 2023 asserting the false claim that Olympic athletes had mobilized against Lia Thomas, a highly decorated swimmer who is a transgender woman.

The headline originated in The Dunning-Kruger Times, a conservative news site which describes itself as satire. While the article itself lacks a clear date, the website's parent organization, America's Last Line of Defense, first tweeted the story out on July 3, 2023. It claimed that U.S. women's athletes threatened to quit if Thomas was allowed to try out for the games for a sport she does not play (volleyball). The post featured faux quotes from sports officials who appear to not exist (like "Coach Joe Barron") and supposed teammates from an unrelated organization (the "US National Women's Team" generally refers to the athletes competing in the World Cup for soccer, which is a wholly separate competition from the Olympics).

"A spokesman for the US Olympic committee responded to our request for comment, noting that they had no idea why the women's volleyball team, the squad in the article's feature image, would care if Lia Thomas got a tryout," the article said.

However, many readers seemed to believe the article was wholly factual. Thousands of comments on the website's Facebook page appeared to sincerely praise the athletes for "taking a stand." A content farm called Daily Tips pushed its own rehashing of the story to its own followers, which number in the hundreds of thousands, without any indication the piece was fake.

Comments from The Dunning-Kruger Times' Facebook Page on Lia Thomas story. (Screenshot by Snopes. )

USA Today also found a post showing a screenshot of the headline that did not include the story link, nor the disclaimer that the article was from a satire news site. The photograph had over 40,000 likes, and versions of it were re-shared by countless other users, including a local chapter of the Wisconsin Republicans.

Thomas has been subjected to anti-trans vitriol for her sport since she began competing with the University of Pennsylvania women's swim team in 2021, having completed two years of Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT. The increase in estrogen reportedly caused Thomas to lose both strength and height.

In May 2022, Thomas earned first place in the women's 500 yard (457 meter) freestyle race at the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) first division swimming championship, the first ever trans athlete to do so. While some pundits decried Thomas for her "unfair advantage," an actual analysis of her scores by The Independent found that she was well within the average range of swimmers on the women's teams. Even her victory in the 500-yard race was still well behind top scorers in the past.

"I'm a woman, just like anybody else on the team," Thomas told Sports Illustrated in 2022. "I get into the water every day and do my best."


America's Last Line Of Defense Archives | Snopes.Com. https://www.snopes.com/tag/americas-last-line-of-defense/. Accessed 26 July 2023.

"Dunning-Kruger-Times.Com." Dunning-Kruger-Times.Com, https://dunning-kruger-times.com/. Accessed 26 July 2023.

"False Claim US National Team Threatened to Quit over Transgender Swimmer | Fact Check." USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2023/07/25/false-claim-us-team-would-quit-over-transgender-swimmer-fact-check/70463463007/. Accessed 27 July 2023.

Henderson, Cydney. "Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Says She Belongs on the Women's Team, Is Eyeing 2024 Olympics." USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2022/03/03/transgender-swimmer-lia-thomas-penn-belong-womens-team/9364678002/. Accessed 26 July 2023.

Powell, Michael. "What Lia Thomas Could Mean for Women's Elite Sports." The New York Times, 29 May 2022. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/29/us/lia-thomas-women-sports.html.

Sanchez, Robert. "'I Am Lia': The Trans Swimmer Dividing America Tells Her Story." Sports Illustrated, 3 Mar. 2022, https://www.si.com/college/2022/03/03/lia-thomas-penn-swimmer-transgender-woman-daily-cover.

"Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Speaks out about Backlash, Future Plans to Compete." Good Morning America, https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/news/story/transgender-swimmer-lia-thomas-speaks-backlash-future-plans-85068951. Accessed 26 July 2023.

"Why the Data Shows Trans Swimming Champion Lia Thomas Didn't Have an Unfair Advantage." The Independent, 31 May 2022, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/lia-thomas-trans-swimmer-ron-desantis-b2091218.html.

Sarah Baum is a former reporting fellow for Snopes.