After speaking out against the NCAA’s decision allowing biological males to compete against women in her sport, former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines says she’s garnered more words of encouragement than hate mail.
“I have received so much support, like it’s insane,” Gaines told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “which tells me who the majority is, what the general population thinks even if you’re not an athlete, if you’re not a female. It’s like we said – common sense.”
On the newest episode of Fox Nation’s “Tucker Carlson Today,” streaming now, Gaines gave a deep dive into the events leading up to transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas “blowing everyone out of the water” and eventually tying with Gaines for a national title.
The former Kentucky swimmer explained how she and her teammates first learned about Thomas and her extremely competitive swim times in November 2021.
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“Your better swimmers know of your better swimmers regardless of what school or what conference you’re at… You compete internationally together. Even if you’re not on the same collegiate team, you’ve probably been on teams together before,” Gaines noted.
“All of a sudden, out of nowhere, there’s this article posted that says, ‘Lia Thomas, swimmer at UPenn, posts 1.41 200m freestyle,’ which is a very, very fast time.”
After discovering that Thomas competed in the men’s division the past three seasons before transitioning to a woman, Gaines claimed she and her teammates felt confident the NCAA wouldn’t permit Thomas to compete in the women’s national championships with unfair physical advantages like height, muscle mass and heart and lung size.
“I kind of just went about my training because I was like, this is a good thing maybe,” Gaines said, “but, turns out, two weeks before our national championships, the NCAA announced Lia will be competing with the females, and I was just like, mind blown.”
Upon arriving at Georgia Tech for the meet, Gaines described an “edgy” feeling in the air.
“The environment is nothing like I’ve ever seen before,” the former swimmer said, recounting the meet. “People didn’t really know what to say, who to say what to, how to feel. Obviously, I know how I felt and I knew how my teammates felt, but no one really wanted to talk about it.”
Following the first event where Thomas took home a championship title, the mood among the swimming community had shifted, according to Gaines.
“That next day we came back and the mood had shifted to where people were mad,” Gaines recalled. “There were tears, these poor ninth and seventeenth-place finishers who missed out on being named an all-American.”
Gaines also pointed out that Thomas brought “extreme discomfort” to the locker room, and that organizers did not disclose that Thomas would be using the women’s facilities.
“That’s not something we were forewarned about, which I don’t think is right in any means, changing in a locker room with someone who has different parts,” Gaines said. “So not only were we forced to race against a male, we were forced to change in the locker room with one… And so then we’re sitting there not even knowing who to talk to, who to complain to, because this kind of all happened behind the scenes and very discreetly.”
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Gaines called out the “huge lack of accountability” between the NCAA and policymaking sides for not protecting the integrity of women’s sports.
“I think people forget that women’s sports were a protected group. The category was made because the playing field was not level by any means when you have them competing against men,” Gaines said. “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.”
“Once you start infringing upon something that people have fought so hard to get and something that I know, personally, I have dedicated essentially my whole life to, I’m allowed to think that’s not okay and obviously not support that by any means,” she added.
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Touching on her personal beliefs and why she’s been outspoken on the issue, Gaines said she feels God put her in a position not to be scared to speak out.
“I talked to my athletic director, I talked to my parents, and I was like, ‘Are you all okay with this?’ And they all said, speak your heart, go for it,” Gaines said. “It’s just been an influx of support all across the board, honestly. You have your couple of negative comments, but it’s things calling me, like, transphobic – which, if they say that, it just rolls right over my head because they’re not listening to the message.”
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