Respect Equality

Virginia Tech swimmer calls on NCAA to change transgender policy

Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas competes in a preliminary heat in the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships Thursday, March 17, 2022, in at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

Story at a glance

  • Virginia Tech swimmer and 2016 Olympian Reka Gyorgy has accused the NCAA of failing to “protect” its athletes by letting transgender swimmers like Lia Thomas compete against cisgender women.
  • Gyorgy last week placed 17th in the preliminary 500-yard freestyle event at the NCAA’s championship meet in Atlanta, meaning she did not advance to the finals.
  • Current NCAA policy allows trans women to compete on collegiate women’s sports teams after they have completed a full calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.

A Virginia Tech swimmer who narrowly missed qualifying for the 500-yard freestyle finals at the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships last week has criticized the athletic association for its eligibility requirements for transgender athletes.

Reka Gyorgy, a fifth-year senior at Virginia Tech and 2016 Olympian, placed 17th in the preliminary 500-yard freestyle event on March 17 in Atlanta, meaning she did not qualify for the finals, in which only the top 16 finishers are eligible to compete.

Gyorgy over the weekend in a statement posted to her private Instagram account claimed that she believed her opportunity to compete in the event’s finals was taken from her by the NCAA’s allowing of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas to compete against cisgender women. Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle finals, becoming the first openly trans woman to win a national Division 1 championship.

Gyorgy in her statement said she respects Thomas and is “convinced that she is no different than me,” though she repeatedly refers to herself and other cisgender female athletes as “biological women” — a term often used by anti-transgender activists to suggest that a trans person is not who they say they are.


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“She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right,” Gyorgy wrote about Thomas in her statement. “On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women. I’m writing this letter now in the hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future. It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.”

Current NCAA policy allows transgender female athletes to compete on a collegiate women’s sports team after compxleting a full calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment. The athletic association’s policy is markedly more lax than that of USA Swimming, the sport’s national governing body, which earlier this year updated its guidelines to require trans women in elite competition to provide evidence that the concentration of testosterone in their blood has been less than 5 nanomoles per liter for at least 36 months.

The USA Swimming policy does not automatically apply to NCAA events, which are not considered elite competition.

Thomas, who swam for the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s team for three years, has been receiving gender-affirming hormones for more than two and a half years, well-within NCAA eligibility requirements, which requires trans swimmers to meet a testosterone threshold of 10 nanomoles per liter of blood.

Gyorgy in her statement, which is addressed to the NCAA, accused the athletic association of intentionally failing to “protect” its athletes and called on the NCAA to make changes to its policy on transgender athlete participation.

“Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault. It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes,” Gyorgy wrote. “I ask that the NCAA take the time to think about all the other biological women in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes. Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.”

In a news release last month, the NCAA said it would consider more stringent policies like that adopted by USA Swimming when recommending additional updates to eligibility requirements over the next two academic years.

Just before Gyorgy released her statement, a “large” group of parents of Ivy League swimmers wrote an anonymous New York Post op-ed, in which they wrote that Thomas, along with other trans female athletes have “robbed thousands of women of fair treatment in sport.”


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