Twelve-time All-American female swimmer Riley Gaines slammed ESPN for airing a segment promoting a biological male over the weekend in the network’s coverage of “Celebrating Women’s History Month.”
“In 2022, swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I Championship by winning the 500 Freestyle,” the segment said. “The Texas native competed for three seasons on the men’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania.”
“People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage so she could win,’” Thomas said in the segment. “I transitioned to be happy.”
Gaines fired back on Twitter, writing: “Lia Thomas is not a brave, courageous woman who EARNED a national title. He is an arrogant, cheat who STOLE a national title from a hardworking, deserving woman.”
“The @ncaa is responsible,” Gaines continued. “If I was a woman working at ESPN, I would walk out. You’re spineless @espn #boycottESPN”
Lia Thomas is not a brave, courageous woman who EARNED a national title. He is an arrogant, cheat who STOLE a national title from a hardworking, deserving woman. The @ncaa is responsible.
— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) March 26, 2023
The news comes as the World Athletics Council announced on Thursday that it will not allow transgender athletes to compete against women in female World Rankings competitions.
The move, which goes into effect this week, will ban “male-to-female transgender athletes who have been through male puberty.”
“Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups, but we continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe. “We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage which will inevitably develop over the coming years. As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount.”
The organization said that it consulted with Member Federations, the Global Athletics Coaches Academy and Athletes’ Commission, and the IOC when making its decision and that there was “little support within the sport for the option that was first presented to stakeholders, which required transgender athletes to maintain their testosterone levels below 2.5nmol/L for 24 months to be eligible to compete internationally in the female category.”
World Athletics is the international governing body for sprints, middle/long, hurdles, road running, jumps, throws, combined events, race walks, relays, cross country, mountain running, ultra running, and trail running.
“There are currently no transgender athletes competing internationally in athletics and consequently no athletics-specific evidence of the impact these athletes would have on the fairness of female competition in athletics,” the organization said. “In these circumstances, the Council decided to prioritise fairness and the integrity of the female competition before inclusion.”