womens advocacy group hand delivers demand letter to ncaa to keep womens collegiate sports female

On Thursday, a group of current and former female athletes delivered a demand letter to the NCAA calling to end the practice of allowing biological male athletes to compete on female teams. 

A petition and demand letter was hand-delivered by former Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines to the NCAA, demanding it “take direct and immediate action to establish rules to keep women’s collegiate sports female.”

Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines speaks during a rally on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, outside of the NCAA Convention in San Antonio.  (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

“In the world of college sports, it is impossible to provide equal opportunities for both sexes (as required by Title IX) without female-only teams,” the letter reads. “Yet the NCAA implements and perpetuates a policy of allowing male athletes on women’s teams, even as sports governing bodies and federal courts increasingly reject these unjust and inequitable policies that exclude young women from their own teams.”

The demand letter was read outside the NCAA convention in San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday, threatening legal action if the NCAA does not “protect female athletes from discrimination on the basis of sex.”

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“The NCAA cannot pick and choose which laws to follow,” says Marshi Smith, an NCAA Champion and co-founder of ICONS. “They must protect female athletes from discrimination on the basis of sex, or expect we will be forced to take legal steps to compel them to do so.”  

The letter demands that the NCAA “repeal all policies and rules that allow male athletes to take roster spots on women’s teams and/or compete in women’s events.” 

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas and Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines react after finishing tied for 5th in the 200 Freestyle finals at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 18th, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta Georgia.

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

It also calls for rules to “keep women’s sports female” and for the NCAA to require colleges to provide single-sex locker rooms for female athletes.

Gaines, who competed against Lia Thomas last year – the first transgender athlete to win a national title – also spoke on Thursday, calling for the NCAA to stop discriminating against female athletes.   

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“Today, we intend to personally tell the NCAA to stop discriminating against female athletes by handing them a petition that we have garnered nearly 10,000 signatures on in just a couple of days,” Gaines said Thursday. 

The NCAA updated its transgender participation policy last January to defer to the guidance of each sport’s governing body. The NCAA announced that its policy would become effective in March, starting with the Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, right, speaks during a rally on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, outside of the NCAA Convention in San Antonio. 

Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, right, speaks during a rally on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, outside of the NCAA Convention in San Antonio.  (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

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USA Swimming updated its policy shortly after requiring transgender athletes who are competing at an elite level to have low levels of testosterone — half of what Thomas was allowed to compete with — for at least 36 months before being eligible, but the NCAA said weeks later that the Administrative Subcommittee of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CMAS) decided that it wouldn’t alter its testosterone guidance, stating that “implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championships.”

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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