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Former Athletes and Coaches Rally Against Trans Inclusion in Women's Sports During Annual NCAA Convention

A number of former NCAA athletes and coaches rallied against allowing transgender athletes into women’s sports at the annual convention held in Phoenix.Riley GainesRiley GainesMegan Mendoza/The Arizona Republic

During the “Our Bodies, Our Sports: We Won't Back Down Rally,” the few dozen demonstrators – the former athletes and coaches made up most of them – protested and spoke out against the practice, later marching from the Phoenix City Hall to the Phoenix Convention Center to oppose the NCAA.

Among the rally’s participants were the Independent Women's Forum, swimmers Marshi Smith and Kylee Alons, three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, and former UKentucky swimmer Riley Gaines.

Smith alleged discrimination on the NCAA’s part against female athletes. Alons said she was uncomfortable changing in the same room as transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, winner of the 500-yard freestyle at the 2022 national championship swim meet.

Gaines, who competed with Thomas in 2022, led the protest and is a well-known and persistent opponent against the inclusion of trans athletes in women’s sports. She claimed that the inclusion of trans athletes amounted to violations of women’s privacy and ability to consent, and that she personally preferred that all trans women be prohibited from women’s sports.

In 2010, the NCAA began allowing trans athletes with a year of hormone therapy to compete in women’s sports. 12 years later, the organization established sport-specific thresholds for trans athletes to be eligible. According to estimates, there are approximately 34 trans athletes participating in the NCAA.

The rally mirrored a similar demonstration around the same time in 2023, which also was during the NCAA’s Convention and involved Gaines and Hogshead-Makar.

Whether trans women have an advantage in sports remains debated. According to a 2017 study, “there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals (or male individuals) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition.”

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