NCAA faces lawsuit over transgender policies: 'Fight for the very essence of women's sports'

NCAA faces lawsuit over transgender policies: 'Fight for the very essence of women's sports'

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Riley Gaines was among the more than a dozen current and former college athletes who filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, the University System of Georgia and others in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Thursday.

Gaines, Reka Gyorgy, Kylee Alons, Kaitlynn Wheeler, Ainsley Erzen, Ellie Eades, Lily Mullens, Suzanna Price, Carter Satterfield, Kate Pearson, Katie Blankenship, Julianna Morrow and athletes identified as Swimmer A, Swimmer B, Track Athlete A and Volleyball Athlete A were among the plaintiffs in the case.

The NCAA, University System of Georgia, Georgia Tech University, University of Georgia, University of North Georgia and members of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

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Virginia Tech swimmer Reka Gyorgy swims the 400 IM consolation finals during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The athletes alleged the NCAA and those involved in the University System of Georgia of denying them the promises of Title IX and pointed to the NCAA’s transgender participation policy as the catalyst. The lawsuit accuses the defendants of multiple Title IX violations and the right to bodily privacy.

“… The NCAA has simultaneously imposed a radical anti-woman agenda on college sports, reinterpreting Title IX to define women as a testosterone level, permitting men to compete on women’s teams,” the complaint says, “and destroying female safe spaces in women’s locker rooms by authorizing naked men possessing full male genitalia to disrobe in front of non-consenting college women and creating situations in which unwilling female college athletes unwittingly or reluctantly expose their naked or partially clad bodies to males, subjecting women to a loss of their constitutional right to bodily privacy.”

The complaint adds the “NCAA has aligned with the most radical elements of the so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion agenda on college campuses, facilitating the NCAA’s effort to shore up its flagging on campus approval ratings in furtherance of the NCAA’s relentless drive to monetize collegiate sport, and diverting attention from the financial exploitation of college athletes by NCAA colleges and universities, all at the expense of female student-athletes.”

The NCAA and the University System of Georgia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.

lia thomas riley gaines ncaa swimming championship

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, left, and Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines tied for 5th in the 200 Freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Gaines, Gyorgy, Alons, Wheeler and Swimmer B are the only plaintiffs without NCAA eligibility. The lawsuit sought an injunction against the NCAA and the universities who are hosting championship events in 2025 and 2026 from implementing the NCAA’s transgender policies.

The SEC Swimming and Diving Championships are set for Feb. 18-22, 2025 at the University of Georgia, and the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships return to Georgia Tech in 2026. North Georgia hosts the 2026 NCAA Division I, II and III Women’s Rowing Championship in 2026, and the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Tennis Championships are at the University of Georgia in 2026 as well.

The NCAA’s transgender policies came under fire during the 2021-22 swim season as Lia Thomas became a prominent figure in the sport. Thomas went on to become the first transgender athlete to win a women’s national championship.

The NCAA said it would follow the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and each sport would follow the national governing body for each sport. If there was no national governing body, then each sport would abide by the international policy. The NCAA updated its transgender policy starting on Jan. 19, 2022. 

View of swim meet

A general view of the competition pool during the Division III Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships held at the Greensboro Aquatic Center on March 18, 2023 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The implementation was set to be done in three phases, with the first starting with the 2022 winter and spring championships. The second phase began with the 2022-23 and 2023-24 regular season and championships and the third phase of full implementation beginning on Aug. 1, 2024.

The policy said transgender athletes “were required to provide documentation to the (Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports) within four weeks before the selections date for their championships” as part of its Phase One plan.

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In Phase One, the NCAA said “documentation had to demonstrate compliance with the 2010 NCAA policy, which calls for one year of testosterone suppression treatment.”

“It also had to document a one-time serum testosterone level that fell below the maximum allowable level for the sport in which the student-athlete was competing within four weeks of championship selections for that sport,” the Phase One policy added. “That means that student-athletes who already fulfilled the 2010 NCAA policy only needed provide one validated serum testosterone level.”

The Phase Two policy began with the 2022-23 and 2023-24 regular season and championships. It went into effect on Aug. 1, 2022.

“Participation in NCAA sports requires transgender student-athletes to provide documentation that meets the above criteria for the 2010 NCAA policy, plus meet the sport standard for documented testosterone levels at three points in time: 1. Prior to any competition during the regular season; 2. Prior to the first competition in an NCAA championship event; and 3. Prior to any competition in the non-championship segment. See the transgender student-athlete eligibility review procedures for more information.”

Phase Three starts later this year.

“Participation in NCAA sports requires transgender student-athletes to provide documentation no less than twice annually (and at least once within four weeks of competition in NCAA championships) that meets the sport-specific standard (which may include testosterone levels, mitigation timelines and other aspects of sport-governing body policies) as reviewed and approved by (Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports). More information about the specific application of Phase Three will be provided prior to implementation.”

NCAA flags

A general view of NCAA pool flags. (Scott Taetsch/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Among the demands, the lawsuit seeks a judge to require the NCAA “render invalid and reassign and revise all awards, records, points, prizes, titles, trophies, announcements or other recognition assigned, given, announced, communicated or recognized by the NCAA which were based in any way upon the competitive results or participation of any male who competed in women’s events or on a women’s team pursuant to the policies, practices, or rules of the NCAA which the Court finds are unlawful.”

Gaines, an OutKick contributor who hosts the “Gaines for Girls” podcast and director of the Riley Gainers Center at the Leadership Institute, explained to Charly Arnolt what she wanted to see from the NCAA.

“What I want to see from the NCAA, and they haven’t don’t thus far, is take accountability and take responsibility,” Gaines said on “OutKick The Morning.” “We’ve seen Charlie Baker testify before (lawmakers) a plethora of times and say that, you know, ‘We don’t really know what the rules are. We don’t really know how we feel about this. We haven’t issued an apology. We’ll just keep working it out on our end.’

“They’re cowards is what they are.”

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The plaintiffs received support from the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), which said it would help fund the lawsuit.

“This lawsuit against the NCAA isn’t just about competition; it’s a fight for the very essence of women’s sports,” ICONS co-founder Marshi Smith said in a news release. “We’re standing up for fairness, for the rights of female athletes to compete on a level playing field. It’s about preserving the legacy of Title IX and ensuring that the future of women’s sports is as bright and as fair as its past.”

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