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Tipsheet

Swimmer Who Tied With Lia Thomas Says Female Athletes Are ‘Not Ok’ With the Trajectory of Women’s Sports

AP Photo/John Bazemore

On Friday, University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who tied with biological male swimmer Will “Lia” Thomas at the NCAA swimming championships, appeared in an interview where she said the majority of females are “not okay with the trajectory” female sports are taking. 

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Gaines made the remarks as she was interviewed by Tennessee GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn on the “Unmuted with Marsha” podcast. The two discussed how Thomas was allowed to compete against biological women for the University of Pennsylvania’s women’s swim team all season despite having competed on the men’s swim team for three previous seasons. 

At the NCAA championships in March, Thomas came in first place in the 500-yard freestyle, as Townhall covered. However, in the 200-yard freestyle, Gaines tied in fifth place with Thomas.

"The majority of us female athletes, or females in general, really are not okay with this. And, they're not okay with the trajectory of this and how this is going and how it could end up in a few years," Gaines told Blackburn. 

Gaines noted that there are many women who are too scared to speak out against biological male athletes participating in women’s sports. She said they “don’t want to risk their future.”

In February, I covered how several female UPenn swimmers sent an anonymous letter to their school requesting they not challenge an NCAA policy that could prevent Thomas from competing against women. The letter, which was sent on behalf of the UPenn swimmers by Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar, noted that the athletes were told they “would be removed from the team or that we would never get a job offer” if they spoke out against Thomas.

In Gaines’ interview with Blackburn, she shared how she felt “a flood of emotions” when she realized she tied with Thomas. 

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“I was extremely happy for the girls above me who conquered what was seemingly impossible by beating Lia,” she explained.

However, Gaines left the competition without her fifth place trophy. Thomas was given the trophy instead.

"I walked back [to get my trophy] and the NCAA official came up to me, and he said, ‘Hey, that was a great swim. We only have one fifth place trophy,’ which I understood, I get how that works. But he said, ‘We’re gonna have to give the trophy to Lia. Yours will be coming in the mail. Great job,” Gaines explained to Blackburn.

"I looked at him and I said, ‘This is the women’s 200-yard freestyle, and Lia won a national title last night, and I have worked every day for the past four years for this,'” Gaines said. 

“The thing I’ve learned the most throughout all of this is to use your voice,” Gaines shared. “I have realized there are so so so many girls who feel the exact same way as I do but are told they can’t say anything.” 

After Thomas’ win at the NCAA championships, several states, including Oklahoma, Iowa, and Arizona have created legislation banning biological males from competing in women’s sports. 

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