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Female athletes sue NCAA for forcing them to compete with men

The lawsuit cites the 2022 swimming championship as the last straw

Former Olympic swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar speaks at a rally at the NCAA Convention in 2023. Associated Press/Photo by Darren Abate

Female athletes sue NCAA for forcing them to compete with men

More than a dozen women who are current or former college athletes filed a lawsuit in federal court in Atlanta on Thursday against the NCAA. The plaintiffs claim the association is discriminating against women and violating their Title IX rights by allowing men who identify as female to compete in women’s sports. They also argue that the association is violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

“The NCAA has simultaneously imposed a radical anti-woman agenda on college sports, reinterpreting Title IX to define women as a testosterone level,” the legal complaint states. The suit, funded by the Independent Council on Women’s Sports, is pushing the NCAA to reverse its transgender policies and revoke any award or record from a male athlete who competed in women’s events.

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs is William Bock III, the former general counsel of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Bock in February resigned from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, citing the organization’s transgender athlete policy as his reason for leaving, according to the Washington Examiner.

Each of the 16 women named in the suit says NCAA policy personally discriminated against her, but the lawsuit points to the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Championships for swimming as a key turning point. During the 200-yard freestyle final, former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines tied for fifth place with the male swimmer known as Lia Thomas from the University of Pennsylvania. During the awards ceremony, Thomas received the fifth-place trophy, not Gaines. Thomas was the first man to win a Division 1 title in any female sport, after winning the 500-yard freestyle.

The University System of Georgia and Georgia Tech are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit because they hosted the championship. Gaines and other swimmers were forced to share a locker room with Thomas during the event.

In a statement to The Athletic, the association declined to comment directly on the case and said it would continue to promote Title IX and investments in women’s sports. The NCAA says its policy “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion, and safety for all who compete.” The organization requires male competitors to undergo one year of testosterone suppression and provide documentation of their testosterone levels before competing in women’s events.

Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.

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