Former Lia Thomas teammate Paula Scanlan speaks with Campus Reform after testifying before Congress

‘When we tried to voice our concerns to the athletic department, we were told that Lia’s swimming and being in our locker room was a non-negotiable.’

‘I encourage everyone to always use their voice and not be afraid of telling the truth,' said Scanlan.

Paula Scanlan, a former University of Pennsylvania NCAA Division I swimmer, testified before the House Judiciary Committee July 27, sharing the abuse she and her teammates endured while sharing a locker room with their male teammate during swim practices.

”My teammates and I were forced to undress in the presence of Lia, a 6-foot-4 tall, biological male, with fully intact male genitalia, 18 times per week,” Scanlan said referencing transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. “Some girls opted to change in bathroom stalls and others used the family bathroom to avoid this.”

In her testimony, Scanlan shared her experience of Thomas, formerly William Thomas, transferring from the men’s to the women’s team at the University of Pennsylvania’s (UPenn), and as a result, shared a locker room with females.

[RELATED: Concerned Women for America files Title IX complaint against UPenn over Lia Thomas]

“When we tried to voice our concerns to the athletic department, we were told that Lia’s swimming and being in our locker room was a nonnegotiable, and we were offered psychological services to attempt to reeducate us to become comfortable with the idea of undressing in front of a male,” Scanlan said in her testimony. The issue is particularly personal for Scanlan as a survivor of sexual assault, she said.

“A bunch of people from the athletic department, LGBT center, someone from psychological services, and an administrator from a conflict administrative group,” were at that meeting when they said Thomas swimming is a “nonnegotiable,” Scanlan told Campus Reform.

The athletic department organized this mandatory poolside meeting via email, Scanlon told Campus Reform. This deviated from the norm of the coaches or captains calling the meeting.

“Penn had the intelligence to not document things,” she told Campus Reform. Harvard University sent the athletes a former letter saying that winning is more important, Scanlan told Campus Reform.

Scanlan told Campus Reform that the message she received from the university was “Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we are here to help make you OK with that,” adding that “The LGBT leader said that trans people’s lives depend on competing,” and that she was provided information for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

“CAPS is notoriously poorly run at [UPenn],” Scanlan told Campus Reform. “It takes weeks and weeks and weeks to get an appointment. They said, ‘Here’s psychological services. Please see them if you need help coming to terms with the situation that we’re in.’” CAPS was brought in to help students reshape their thoughts, Scanlan said.

In her testimony, Scanlan described how the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student-run newspaper at the University of Pennsylvania, retracted her article sharing a scientific, statistical perspective about how Y chromosomes cannot be changed by any surgical procedure or systemic therapy and, therefore, give men an advantage in women’s sports. Scanlan says the Daily Pennsylvanian retracted her op-ed within a matter of hours.

“From what I understand of the situation, the students on the newspaper threatened to quit over the op-ed staying, so they thought they were going to have no staff,” Scanlan told Campus Reform. “You’re not only unable to have a dissenting viewpoint, but you can’t talk about it either.”

Scanlan thought of transferring schools, but her parents encouraged her to stay. Scanlan said she told herself to get through February or end of March 2022, when her season ended, “and then I could never think about this ever again.”

She certainly did not foresee speaking out and writing full-time about this issue, particularly as an engineering student with a six-figure engineering job right out of college.

“The consequences are a lot more because this is changing the path of my life,” Scanlan told Campus Reform. “I encourage everyone to always use their voice and not be afraid of telling the truth,” Scanlan added.

Scanlan said that after her testimony, one of her former teammates from UPenn texted her supporting messages. “She is 100 percent supportive of me. She’s not ready to speak out yet. I hope maybe one day she will. She’s not worried about what other people will think about her, but more about the other consequences in life.”

She also heard from several parents whose daughters compete at the high school level and do not want their daughters sharing locker rooms with men or competing against them.

“I do think if we continue to let transgender athletes compete in the female category coaches will be more inclined to recruit them, because they’re going to be faster and stronger and better at the sport,” Scanlan told Campus Reform. ”And then at that point, then yes, girls would lose out on scholarships.”

Scanlan said her coach at UPenn was more focused on strategy rather than showing emotion about being excited to have a competitive edge.

“It was very much how he would’ve acted if he got some girl that was faster than anybody else,” Scanlan told Campus Reform.

Thomas’ personal best times in every freestyle event in the men’s division were faster than the women’s world records, even though Thomas only placed in the top 500, but in the women’s division, he led in several events. 

[RELATED: Lia Thomas eyes the 2024 Olympics]

Scanlan said that she has not heard from the NCAA nor have they commented on her testimony.

“Until there’s a complete weed out of these people in power [in the NCAA] and there’s serious pressure on them, I don’t think there will be a shift because they’re still profiting.”

“The biggest thing is to push for legislative changes and then the governing bodies are going to have to follow suit if they’re going to be sued,” Scanlan told Campus Reform. “We’re working on helping states pass legislation not help protect women’s spaces and women’s sports and define what a woman is.”

Several states have passed legislation that men from joining female sports teams, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

As an advisor to the Independent Women’s Forum, Scanlan will continue speaking up for women in sports.

Campus Reform contacted the NCAA for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.