Riley Gaines, a former college swimmer, called out two transgender athletes that qualified for the California preliminary finals race and chose not to attend.
Gaines competed against Lia Thomas while she was at the University of Kentucky. Thomas, who won the 2022 Division I Women’s National Championship, quickly became the focal point in the debate about women’s sports.
Thomas spent three seasons as a member of the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s swimming team before switching to the women’s team following a gap year when the Ivy League canceled the 2020-21 sports year due to COVID-19.
Gaines, since then, has spoken out about her stance on women’s sports. She tweeted on Friday to question whether high school runners had an “unfair advantage.”
Gaines has consistently claimed that the participation of transgender athletes in school sports would discourage other students from participating.
Athena Ryan placed second in the 1,600m race held in California last week. Ryan, a male born who has transitioned into a female, will compete on the boys’ team until 2021.
Adeline Johnson, a runner from the same team as Ryan, finished fourth in the race. Johnson, 18, was not eligible for the state finals because she did not finish in the top three. Johnson gave a thumbs down during the podium presentation after the race.
Lorelei Barrett is a second transgender athlete who qualified for the State Finals. Ryan and Barrett both did not show up for the preliminary finals.
Both boys (Athena Ryan, and Lorelei Barret) who qualified for the girls’ high school track state championship in California didn’t compete in the preliminaries today.
Did they realize they had an unfair advantage?” Or is this too optimistic? Gaines tweeted this.
Both boys (Athena Ryan and Lorelei Barrett) who qualified for the girls high school track and field state championship in California didn’t not compete in prelims today.
Did they realize they clearly possess an unfair advantage? Or is that too optimistic? pic.twitter.com/7zNMeYcNqg
— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) May 27, 2023
Ryan, who had finished sixth in a 1,600-meter race in her previous competition for high school girls, now holds the second place.
Ryan ignited controversy when he boasted about his improved running times.
“I didn’t expect that,” Ryan told MileSplit that he had dropped 17 seconds from his season’s best over the last two weeks. After last weekend, I thought I would never be able to run in the low fives again. “I was only coming here to break five. I’m just glad I finished.”
Several protest groups and individuals showed up at the race to voice their disapproval. After yelling, at least one protester was removed from the venue.
Transgender students can compete in sports or activities “consistent” with their gender identities, according to California Interscholastic Federation policy.
The eligibility of a student-athlete only needs to be granted once and does not need to be renewed annually.
California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) is the state’s governing body for high school sports. CIF’s Twitter bio says that it promotes “equity and quality in education, character development, and academic advancement.”
World Athletics made its announcement in March that transgender athletes would not be allowed to compete at international events for women. The NCAA will soon be introducing new rules that would require transgender athletes to submit to routine testing.