A female swimmer has reflected on the discomfort she and others experienced sharing a locker room with trans-identified athlete Lia Thomas and how God has given her the courage to speak up about the NCAA allowing a biological male to compete in this year's women's swimming championships.
Riley Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer who just graduated from the University of Kentucky, elaborated on her experience in a lengthy interview on the Fox Nation program “Tucker Carlson Today.”
Gaines first learned of University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas in November 2021, during her senior year of college, after seeing an article reporting that the biologically male athlete had swam 200 yards in 1 minute and 41 seconds.
“I click on the article and it says it’s a senior swimmer, she’s from UPenn, which isn’t historically a swimming school," she recalled.
The article caught Gaines by surprise since swimmers are usually aware of other swimmers, especially those that perform very well and are thus likely to become top competition at National Collegiate Athletics Association events.
“I was completely thrown for a loop, and so I’m talking with my coach, and I’m like ‘who is this person' because I’ve never heard of them, and this is a really fast time, and they’re a senior so they must have just come out of nowhere to post the fastest time by great margins in the event that I was hoping to win a national title in," she said.
Another article about Thomas Gaines came across a few days later briefly disclosed that “Lia Thomas was formerly Will Thomas and swam on the men’s side for three years.”
At first, Gaines felt relief upon learning that Thomas was a biological male because she believed that “they won’t be able to swim at NCAAs” since “the NCAA would never let this happen to where we have someone who swam three years as a male swim with the females at our national championships.”
However, Gaines' prediction and hope did not come true.
“Two weeks before our national championships, the NCAA announced Lia will be competing with the females and I was just like mind-blown,” she said.
Gaines identified Thomas’ best time as “at least a second and a half faster” than hers, which amounts to a big difference in swimming.
The NCAA championships, featuring collegiate swimmers from all across the U.S., took place at Georgia Tech in March.
“The environment is nothing like I’ve ever seen before,” Gaines stated. She characterized the atmosphere as “edgy” because “people didn’t really know what to say, who to say what to, how to feel.”
After watching Thomas “win a national title and blow all the other females completely out of the water,” Gaines explained that “the mood had shifted to where people were mad.”
Gaines ultimately tied with Thomas for fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle, a feat she described as “pretty rare in swimming.”
Following the 200-yard freestyle, an NCAA official told Gaines that Thomas would get to take a picture with the fifth-place trophy while she would receive a separate trophy in the mail. He also asked her to pose for a picture with the sixth-place trophy even though she tied for fifth place.
This exchange with the NCAA official first prompted Gaines to speak out about the matter.
Gaines first appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to discuss that experience a few weeks later.
“I think God kind of put me in that position to where I’m just not someone who’s scared to speak out,” she concluded.
Gaines also touched upon the “extreme discomfort in the locker room” she and other female swimmers experienced at Georgia Tech. The swimmer answered in the affirmative when Carlson inquired as to whether Thomas used the girls’ locker room.
“That’s not something we were forewarned about,” she added. Gaines lamented that under the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX, “it is now sexual assault to refer to someone as their wrong pronouns but it’s not sexual assault to have someone with opposite body parts in a female locker room.”
Other female athletes had previously complained about having to share a locker room with Thomas, who still has male genitalia.
A complaint against the University of Pennsylvania filed by the conservative group Concerned Women for America features testimony from Thomas’ teammates, one of whom told The Daily Mail that sharing a locker room with Thomas is “definitely awkward because Lia still has male body parts and is attracted to women.”
The complaint also stated that “While Lia covers [himself] with a towel sometimes, there’s a decent amount of nudity,” with one swimmer explaining that “she and others have had a glimpse at [his] private parts.” Gaines told Carlson that “Thomas’ teammates have actually reached out to me and thanked me personally for doing this.”
After praising the support she received from her family and her school’s athletic director regarding her decision to speak out about the unfairness of the situation involving Thomas, Gaines detailed the contents of a letter sent to female athletes competing at Ivy League universities informing them “if they feel uncomfortable with a man in their locker rooms to seek counseling.”
Additionally, Gaines said that larger heart and lung sizes in male compared to females give males, on average, an advantage over females in a competitive sport like swimming "where you do have to have that aerobic capacity.”
She stressed that heart size and lung size do not change even after biological males begin to take feminizing hormones.
The 22-year-old, who is going to dental school and recently got married, dismissed the idea that speaking out against the participation of trans-identified males in women’s sports will result in negative consequences for female athletes as a false narrative.
“Since I’ve been kind of outspoken since March, I have received so much support,” she asserted. “I’ve received probably tenfold positive messages as I have negative.”
As Gaines indicated in her interview on Fox Nation, life as a collegiate swimmer constitutes quite a commitment.
“In college, we swam about five-and-a-half hours every single day,” she recalled. “And three of those hours are before 8 a.m.”
“We’re there over summer. We’re there over Christmas. We’re there over Thanksgiving. We’re there over spring break, fall break. We don’t get to go home ever,” she added. “We get Christmas Eve off and Christmas Day to go home.”
Besides an annual week off in August, Gaines had to spend most of her time in college either in the pool or taking classes.
"I think people forget that women's sports were a protected group," she said. "The category was made because the playing field was not level by any means when you have them competing against men. And so obviously it was created to ensure that fairness. And now that we are kind of completely flipping that, it devalues what it was created for."
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com