Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who rose to fame after speaking out about the treatment she received in her competition against University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in the 200-yard freestyle final at the NCAA Women’s Championships, is once again calling out the NCAA for their “shamelessly political” actions.
'Women had dedicated their lives to this. To have it taken away by somebody who, only a year earlier, would never even have qualified as a man?'
— Oliver Brown (@oliverbrown_tel) November 9, 2022
Gaines and Thomas tied for fifth place in the race, but they reportedly refused to give Gaines a trophy — instead choosing to only give one to Thomas.
In an interview with Mobile, Alabama radio’s FM Talk 106.5, the female swimmer discussed how the NCAA seemed to favor Thomas — a biological male who identifies as transgender — in every way, which she deemed “political.”
“Like you mentioned, I swam for the University of Kentucky,” Gaines said. “I just graduated this past May. But last year, in March, my senior year, the NCAA announced that Lia Thomas, I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with that name, would be competing with the women.”
She went on to explain how Thomas had been a “senior swimmer” who had competed for three years “on the men’s side at UPenn, then switched over to the female side.”
“So, we were all curious what this was going to look like,” Gaines added. “But when we were there, we watched Lia Thomas win a national title in the 500 [yard] freestyle, beating out American record-holders, the fastest women to ever swim by seconds, which I want to add, seconds in swimming is a lot. This is a sport that is measured down to the hundredth of a second.”
She then pointed out the obvious biological differences between men and women by noting that Thomas “was ranking in the 500s, 600s as a male” in the previous year, “then winning a national title for the females by seconds” — and argued that “the information is right there to see that this is blatantly wrong and unfair.”
Gaines went on to describe the race between herself and Thomas, and the circumstances behind the trophy being given to Thomas despite the two tying for fifth place.
“But that next day, after Thomas won the national title, Thomas and I competed against each other in the 200-yard freestyle,” she explained. “Miraculously enough, we actually tied. So we went the exact same time down to the hundredth of a second.”
“Upon tying, we go behind the award’s podium where the NCAA official passes out the trophies, but he looks at us and says, ‘Hey, great job. You guys tied. We only have one trophy, so we’re going to give it to Lia.’ And so I look at him, and I say, ‘OK, I understand there’s only one trophy, but can I ask you why you’re adamant on giving this trophy to Lia, who is a biological man?’ And he looks at me and says, ‘We’re just doing this in chronological order,’” Gaines continued.
“And so, I further press him because I realize what is happening, and I say, ‘OK, but what are we being chronological about?’ He looks at me and says, ‘Well, for photo purposes, Lia has to hold the trophy. You can pose with this one, but we will be taking it back, and you will not go home with one today. Lia will take this one home,’” she added.
The former University of Kentucky swimmer noted that this was the moment when she realized that herself and other female athletes “were not just being forced to compete with men and change with men” in the locker room — they were actually “being sidelined to men.”
“It was at this point I realized we as female athletes are being sidelined to men – just being completely put on the back burner, which goes against everything Title IX was created to protect,” she added.
Gaines then argued that the NCAA’s treatment of Thomas was “shamelessly political.”
“That’s exactly what this is,” she said, adding that “they used Thomas as a political pawn.”
She went on to cite the NCAA’s nomination of Thomas as “Woman of the Year” as proof of her assertion.
“I was only further reassured of that when the NCAA nominated Thomas for NCAA Woman of the Year, which is the highest honor for female athletes in all of college,” Gaines said. “It encompasses your athletic achievements and also what you’ve accomplished academically, within your community, your character, your leadership – all of these things that would make this award so special and so powerful. But they totally devalued that award. It is meaningless now.”
Gaines previously appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” following Thomas’ nomination for the award.