Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines decried the University of Pennsylvania’s decision to nominate Lia Thomas for the NCAA’s Woman of the Year award Monday, calling the move a “slap to the face” for female athletes and competitors.
Thomas became the first transgender woman to win titles at the Ivy League and NCAA championships, reigniting the debate over whether transgender women should be permitted to compete in sports against biological women.
In an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Gaines, who was also nominated for the award by the University of Kentucky, said the NCAA is making a “mockery” of female competitors by awarding the highly sought-after Woman of the Year award to “someone who spent 95% of their life as a male.”
“It’s a mockery and that’s what this whole thing has turned into,” the former star swimmer said. “Something we as female athletes dedicated our whole lives to, is something that people are laughing at. It’s an insult, it’s incredibly disheartening and quite frankly, it’s wrong.”
“That’s what we’re doing at this point, is laughing at women,” she added.
LIA THOMAS NOMINATED BY UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA FOR NCAA ‘WOMAN OF THE YEAR’ AWARD
Gaines won three individual conference titles in the SEC, broke two SEC records, had 12 All-America awards and graduated with summa cum laude honors. She finished behind Thomas in the 200-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships earlier this year.
Thomas’ nomination represents a “total regression of what Title IX stands for,” Gaines said.
“Think of all the deserving female athletes who did not get the nomination and Thomas did, quite literally after one year,” she told Carlson. “It makes sense because it’s been one year Thomas has spent as a female. It’s insulting. It’s a punch in the gut, it’s a slap to the face and it’s a total regression of what Title IX stands for.”
Each NCAA member school nominates a Woman of the Year. Each conference then reviews the nominations from its member schools and submits its conference nominee to the NCAA. Nominees who compete in sports not sponsored by their school’s main conference and independent nominees will be sent to a separate pool of nominations and considered by a committee.
University of Pennsylvania’s nomination of Thomas comes after FINA, the governing body for international swimming, voted to approve new polices for transgender swimmers.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
The newly approved “gender inclusion policy” only permits swimmers who transitioned prior to the age of 12 to participate in women’s events.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.