". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Led by Riley Gaines, 16 Women File Groundbreaking Suit against the NCAA

March 15, 2024

The NCAA has ignored Congress, its own committee members, state legislators, parents, and female athletes, but it can’t ignore this. In what is being called “a day of reckoning” for President Charlie Baker, the country’s biggest collegiate sports association is being taken to court over a radical transgender policy that has physically hurt, traumatized, and robbed young athletes of opportunities across America. “This is the time to speak up for all the women in the future,” swimmer Reka Gyorgy insisted. “It’s been two years, and nothing [has] happened. When will we change things if it’s not now?”

Those two years Gyorgy mentions are personal. It was 2022 when she lost her All-American title to Lia Thomas, something she’d worked for five years to achieve. Because Thomas decided to swim as a female, Reka was bumped to 17th — one spot shy of the top-16 cutoff she needed. She thought back on that devastation in an exclusive interview with The Free Press’s Francesca Block. “I was in the best physical [shape] I have ever been,” she explained. “And [this was my] the last chance. I was a senior, I was ready for racing. I was ready [to] give it all.” And yet, “going into the race [where] you know that one spot is going to be taken for sure [by Thomas], that’s a totally different mindset.”

“[W]atching that last heat of the 500 freestyle, it was just so emotional,” Gyorgy remembers. “Looking at the screen after the last heat touched the wall [and] seeing my name at 17th, I was shocked, to be honest. I went through all the feelings. … I was surrounded by my teammates and my coaches, and I started crying. I broke down because I felt right away that I [wouldn’t] have the second chance to swim again. And it just wasn’t fair. It was so unfair.”

While Riley Gaines grabbed most of the headlines after tying with Thomas for the trophy, it was Gyorgy who sent the first public letter of complaint to the NCAA. After the 2022 tournament, “[Reka] was really the first athlete at that national championships to take a stand,” Gaines said. “Had she not done that and had I not seen that, I certainly would not have taken the stand that I did. So I could not be more grateful for Rica. And she certainly inspired and continues to inspire more people than I think even she could possibly realize.”

Now the two women are linking arms, along with college athletes across swimming, volleyball, track, and diving, who’ve all been victims of the NCAA’s indifference toward Title IX and the devastation their rules have done to fair play. The lawsuit, which was organized by the Independent Council on Women’s Sports, is considered the first of its kind — and, if you ask most Americans, long overdue. Among other things, it demands the association “revoke all awards given to trans athletes in women’s competition and ‘reassign’ them to their female contenders. It also asks for ‘damages for pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, suffering and anxiety…” The Free Press explains.

Some of the most horrifying stories of Thomas’s involvement in girls’ swimming have come at the expense of girls’ privacy — another reason the women felt compelled to sue. As Gaines has shared before, most of the competitors at the NCAA Championships in Georgia had zero warning that a naked Thomas would be in the women’s locker room. “The first time we found out that this would be the case was when we were actually undressing next to this six-foot-four man who was also simultaneously undressing, fully exposing himself and his male genitalia,” Gaines said. “We were not given any prior acknowledgement. We were not given a way to make other arrangements for ourselves. This was something as women, as female athletes, that we felt uncomfortable with.”

One elite swimmer and fellow plaintiff, Kylee Alons, a 31-time All-American, was so embarrassed that she changed in a utility room after she encountered Thomas. “I was literally racing U.S. and Olympic gold medalists, and I was changing in a storage closet at this elite-level meet,” she told Block.

“… I can’t even put into words the feelings,” Gaines shared. “I mean, of course it’s awkward, it’s embarrassing, it’s uncomfortable, but really the feelings of betrayal and utter violation. And honestly, the locker room aspect of this whole thing was traumatizing. And it wasn’t even necessarily traumatizing because of what we were forced to see or how we as women were forcibly exploited without our consent. It was traumatic for me to know just how easy it was for those people who created and enforce these policies [to] totally dismiss our rights to privacy without even a second thought, without even bare minimum forewarning us.”

One thing people might not realize, Block explained after reading the lawsuit, is that a competitive swimming race suit “is much different.” “It’s really tight. It could take 15 to 20 minutes, sometimes 30, 40 minutes to put on.” So these young women aren’t talking about a few minutes of discomfort. “And let’s be honest here,” Gaines admitted, “a swimming locker room [is] not a place of modesty. I think we can all agree a locker room is not a comfortable place in general. But growing up a swimmer, I think, at least for speaking for myself, you grow to feel comfortable being vulnerable in that environment. But that vulnerability was entirely stripped from us. When you have your back turned, you’re undressing, and all of a sudden you hear a man’s voice in that changing space. … It was innate for every girl in that locker room to cover themselves, whether that was with their hands or their towels or their clothes — and to get out of that locker room as quickly as they could.”

Reka reminded people that this was a position the NCAA forced them into. “As Riley said, we didn’t get a heads up. … And it might seem silly for some people, but we had 18- to 22-year-old girls in the locker room — and some of them may not have seen a naked male before. And [it’s] just not right.”

At the end of the day, the women say, they’re all victims of the radical agenda of the Biden administration, the NCAA, and International Olympic Committee (IOC), whose main goal seems to be “actively and openly discriminating against women on the basis of our sex, which is everything that Title IX was passed to prevent from happening.”

And in a stunning admission by Baker to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the NCAA pursued this extreme trans policy without ever studying the “physical, psychological, or emotional harm” of the trans policy on female athletes. “That’s a bombshell,” Concerned Women for America’s Doreen Denny insisted after discovering it — buried — on page 18 of the president’s written response. That alone should be “grounds for the NCAA to cease and desist” from its policy immediately.

And it’s not as if the NCAA hadn’t been pressed to study the issue. Members of its own committees, including Bill Bock, who were experts on the science, urged the association to act. Bock’s years with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency led him to believe that allowing men to compete against women was essentially “massive, authorized cheating.” And yet, as he explained after resigning in protest, “There was no real mechanism for me to bring that issue to anybody within my committee and force a decision on it or something like that. … The board of directors of the NCAA is the ultimate decision maker. And they were the ones that ultimately made the decision to continue to allow Thomas to compete.”

When people asked about protecting a level playing field, the NCAA “tried to avoid the question,” Bock said. “Mostly, they [tried] to talk about something else … [like] inclusiveness and the need to be open to whatever somebody feels about themselves. … And then they say, ‘This could cause people to self-harm if we don’t allow them to do this.’ And so, we should make sport unfair because people will self-harm.”

But the biological realities are real, most international sports bodies have conceded as they snap back to stricter, girls-only rules. “Women are not just a testosterone threshold,” Gaines argued. “That is not the qualification to being a woman. Even if Thomas had zero nanomoles per liter of testosterone in his body, there are still advantages that males possess over women that make this unfair. The bottom line is, even if this wasn’t a physical sport, it’s a woman’s category, and by allowing men into women’s category, you are, again, objectively discriminating against women on the basis of our sex.”

To the haters who say she’s just anti-trans, Gaines fires back, “My stance is not anti-anything. My stance is pro-reality. It is pro-fairness. It is pro-common sense. It is pro-woman. And if being pro-woman is deemed anti-trans, then it must mean that being pro-trans is deemed anti-woman. And what do we call someone who’s anti-woman? We call them a misogynist.”

At the end of the day, she argued, “Reka and myself and the other athletes who are signed onto this lawsuit, we are standing for something. We are standing for women again. We are standing for women’s sports. We are standing for reality. We are not standing against anything. There’s certainly a place for people who identify as trans to compete in sports. Of course there is. And I encourage everyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation or race … to play sports, but play in a category that is fair and that is safe. Thomas competing against us was neither of those things.”

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.