16 female athletes including Riley Gaines sue NCAA for allowing men into women’s locker rooms, competitions

The NCAA's current eligibility rules "provide a testosterone advantage to men competing as women that women cannot replicate without doping."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

16 female athletes have launched a class action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletics Association over the allowance of trans-identified males into female locker rooms and competitions.

According to The Free Press, at the center of the suit is former UPenn swimmer and trans-identified male Lia Thomas, who rose to prominence over the 2022 swimming season, culminating in a 2022 NCAA Swimming Championships win.

The suit states that the NCAA as well as Georgia Tech, which hosted the 2022 event, violated Title IX, and demanded that the NCAA revoke all awards given to trans-identified male athletes in women’s competitions and give those awards to the female that would have come in their place.

The suit also seeks to block biological males from female competition, and seeks "damages for pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, suffering and anxiety, expense costs and other damages due to defendants’ wrongful conduct."

The lawsuit accuses the NCAA of "destroying female safe spaces in women’s locker rooms" in violation of the 14th Amendment by allowing Thomas into the women’s locker room.

Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle title at the NCAA championships and was also named All-American in the three events the biological male competed in at the event. Thomas competed as a man between 2017 and 2020, ranking hundreds of places lower than the wins seen in the 2022 season competing in the women’s division.

The suit also claims that the NCAA allows "naked men possessing full male genitalia to disrobe in front of non-consenting college women" and creates "situations in which unwilling female college athletes unwittingly or reluctantly exposed their unclad bodies to males, subjecting women to a loss of their constitutional right to bodily privacy."

Among the plaintiffs in the case are Kylee Alons, who swam for North Carolina State, Riley Gaines and Kaitlynn Wheeler, who both swam for the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy, University of Arkansas track athlete Ainsley Erzen, Roanoke College swimmers Lily Mullens, Susanna Price, Carter Satterfield, Kate Pearson, Katie Blankinship, Julianna Morrow, University of Kentucky tennis player Ellie Eades, and multiple unnamed female athletes.

The suit notes studies done by professionals that found performance gaps between male and female athletes could be between 10 to 50 percent depending on the sport, and that through natural development of the sexes, males see a "differentiation in male body structure beginning even before birth." Differences in the sexes are also seen in height, bone density, oxygen transport in the body, power, and more.

"A point of comparison that helps put the Male-Female Sport Performance Gap in perspective is to understand that every women’s world record in every track and field event is bested every year by dozens, and in many cases hundreds, of high school age males," the lawsuit notes.

"Deviation from the line drawn by Title IX harms females by making them compete against males, which is not fair, and in many cases can be unsafe."

Despite testosterone-blocking drugs being necessary to compete in the women’s division for trans-identified males, the suit notes that "multiple peer reviewed scientific research papers confirm that testosterone suppression does not work to bridge the Male-Female Sport Performance Gap."

The lawsuit also notes that the lower end for male testosterone levels and the upper end for females "do not overlap," with males ranging between 8.8 and 30.9 nmol/L and females ranging between 0.4 and 2.0 nmol/L.

"Currently, in 19 out of 25 women’s sports the NCAA only requires males who want to compete against females to show testosterone suppression to a level of less than 10 nanomoles per liter."

It adds that "even were it found somehow that a process of relying upon male testosterone suppression to permit men to access women’s sports and sports teams could preserve equal opportunities for women in sports under Title IX, the NCAA’s current eligibility rules would still fail because they provide a testosterone advantage to men competing as women that women cannot replicate without doping."

Speaking on the experiences surrounding competing against Thomas, the lawsuit states that one unnamed swimmer had to change in a bathroom stall at the NCAA championships, which took her over 30 minutes to do, after being "shocked" to find Thomas in the women’s locker room. The locker rooms had reportedly been changed to be "unisex," but no signage was posted nor was advance notice given to the athletes.

That swimmer said she was "very uncomfortable" with the situation and said it had a "negative impact" on her preparing for her race.

Alons also said she was "uncomfortable" with Thomas being in the locker room and that she was "stressed out." Alons ended up changing in an equipment storage closet behind the bleachers.

Gaines said the locker room was usually a place where athletes are laughing and chatting, but the room "suddenly became silent" when Thomas entered, who was "towering over every girl in the room."

When Gaines went to find an NCAA official to inform them, she was told, "we had to get around this by changing the locker room to unisex."

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