Twelve-time All-American swimmer Riley Gaines — a woman — is condemning ESPN for promoting a transgender athlete in a segment 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 narrator stated alongside video of Lia Thomas, a male who began identifying as transgender and competing on the women’s swimming team for the University of Pennsylvania. “The Texas native competed for three seasons on the men’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania.”
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Thomas said in the video that identifying as transgender “was not a choice,” adding, “People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage so she could win. I transitioned to be happy.”
In a tweet of her own, Gaines lambasted ESPN for featuring Thomas.
“Lia Thomas is not a brave, courageous woman who EARNED a national title,” she wrote. “He is an arrogant cheat who STOLE a national title from a hardworking, deserving woman.”
Gaines went on to condemn the NCAA for allowing Thomas, a male, to compete as a woman and stated that, if she was a female who worked for the Disney-owned ESPN, she would walk out over the segment.
“You’re spineless, ESPN,” she added.
Gaines’ rebuke of ESPN came on the heels of World Athletics — the international governing body for track and field and other running-related sports — announcing it would no longer allow transgender athletes to compete against women.
That prohibition, which takes effect this week, will disallow “male-to-female transgender athletes who have been through male puberty” from competing with natural-born female athletes.
“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 Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics. “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.”
In an additional comment, World Athletics stated it decided to “prioritize fairness and the integrity of the female competition before inclusion.”
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