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‘Not okay’: Kentucky’s Riley Gaines is lone female swimmer speaking out against NCAA policies

Lia Thomas and Riley Gaines at last month's NCAA Division I swimming championships in Atlanta.
by WorldTribune Staff, April 17, 2022

The woke mob has instituted a cone of silence around Lia Thomas, a biological male who dominated NCAA women's swimming this past season, concluding in a national championship in the 500 freestyle.

Most women in college swimming have not spoken up about the first biological male in history to win a women's NCAA title, knowing the retribution that awaits them if they do.

One exception is Riley Gaines of the University of Kentucky.

Since standing next to Thomas on the podium at last month’s NCAA championships in Atlanta, Gaines has spoken out in interviews with Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, the Daily Wire, Fox News’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton podcast.

“It’s totally wrong. I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m almost certain I’m speaking for a large majority of female athletes. This is just not OK,” Gaines said in her April 6 appearance on Fox. “We’re dealing with something completely out of our control when we’re racing biological males.”

“There’s a fear of risking your athletic career or your work career if you say something,” Gaines said. “People are definitely scared. But I’m like, well, I’m not scared. I’m a senior. I can do this.”

On Wednesday, Gaines was on hand at the Kentucky state legislature to support the override of Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of Senate Bill 83, also known as the Save Women’s Sports Act. The override made Kentucky the 15th state to ban male-born athletes from female sports.

“I feel like it’s so obvious that it’s unfair,” Gaines told The Washington Times. “I’m just trying to take a stand and do my part to help.”

The only other NCAA Division I women’s swimmer to speak out by name is Virginia Tech’s Reka Gyorgy, a fifth-year senior who posted a letter on Instagram immediately after the championships accusing the NCAA of failing to protect female athletes.

Gyorgy said she placed 17th in the 500 freestyle, just missing the consolation final, which felt like “the final spot was taken from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete.”

The NCAA has not commented publicly since Thomas’s win in Atlanta, but in a letter shared March 28 with Swimming World, NCAA President Mark Emmert defended the organization’s policies on transgender participation, which were updated in January.

“As the top governing board of the NCAA, the Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports,” Emmert said.

The 21-year-old Gaines tied for fifth with Thomas in the 200 freestyle last month at the NCAA Division I women’s swimming championships in Atlanta, a day after Thomas won the 500 freestyle.

As Gaines walked to the podium, she said she was approached by an NCAA official who congratulated her on her performance, then told her that because there was only one fifth-place trophy, it would be presented during the awards ceremony to Thomas.

Gaines said she was “taken aback.”

“I said, ‘That’s fine, but why are you choosing to give the trophy to Lia?’ ” Gaines said. “And he responded with, ‘We want to do it in chronological order.’ And I said, ‘Well, chronological order? We just tied. I don’t know what we’re being chronological about.’ ”

She asked him to explain, but “he just said, ‘We’re going to give the trophy to Lia, but great swim.’ ”

Gaines said Thomas was standing nearby but said nothing. Gaines posed on the podium on the sixth-place slot next to Thomas and was given the sixth-place trophy. She said she recently received her fifth-place trophy in the mail.

The NCAA did not respond to a request for comment.

“It’s not about the trophy. I have tons of trophies,” Gaines said. “There’s been a lot of, ‘Oh, sore loser, she didn’t get her fifth-place trophy,’ and I’m like, ‘That’s not the point.’ It’s really just about showing how they handled the situation. It was like they didn’t want to look bad, so they did this just to save face and appease this minority.”

Other collegiate women’s swimmers may be keeping quiet, but behind the scenes, Gaines said many have reached out to cheer her on.

They include “a ton” from the University of Pennsylvania, she said, where Thomas swam for three years on the men’s team before transitioning to female.
 

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