Riley Gaines appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday and gave an emotional opening statement to kick off the Senate hearing on «Protecting Pride: Defending the Civil Rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.»

Gaines opened her testimony by recalling how she and transgender woman Lia Thomas, who competed for the University of Pennsylvania, tied for fifth in the NCAA 200-yard freestyle championship and how she and her team watched Thomas win the 500-yard freestyle that day. before.

The former Kentucky star, a 12-time All-American, said the NCAA opted to give Thomas the trophy and the photo op.


Riley Gaines, American competitive swimmer, speaks at the Greenville Convention Center on Friday, June 2, 2023. (MCKENZIE LANGE/Staff/USA TODAY NETWORK)

«Having only one trophy, the NCAA presented it to Thomas and told me I had to go home empty-handed,» he said. «And when I asked why, which wasn’t a question they were prepared to ask, I really appreciate their honesty because they said it was crucial that Thomas had it for the photos. Thomas had to have it for the photos. I felt betrayed. I felt slighted. I felt reduced to a photo op. But my feelings didn’t matter. What mattered to the NCAA were the feelings of a biological man.»

Gaines, citing Title IX, said allowing Thomas to «displace female athletes in the pool and on the podium,» the governing body for elite collegiate athletes, «intentionally and explicitly discriminates on the basis of sex.»

She then got emotional when she talked about being forced to share a locker room with Thomas.


Lia Thomas after winning a swimming competition

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas reacts after swimming the 100 freestyle preliminaries at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 19, 2022 at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

«But that’s not all. In addition to being forced to give up our awards and our titles and our opportunities, the NCAA forced me and my swimmers to share a locker room with Thomas,» Gaines said. «A 6-foot-4, 22-year-old male outfitted with exposed male genitalia. Let me be clear on this: We were not warned that we would be sharing a locker room. No one asked for our consent and we did not.» give our consent.»

The NCAA did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on Gaines’ comments.

Gaines, who is an adviser to Independent Women’s Voice, said she hoped lawmakers in the hearing could see that it was a violation of their privacy and «how some of us feel uncomfortable, ashamed and even traumatized by this experience.»

«I know I don’t speak for all the people who competed against Lia Thomas, but I know I speak for a lot because I saw the tears,» she said. «I saw the tears of the ninth and 17th place finishers who missed out on being named All-American by one spot. I can attest to the extreme discomfort in the locker room for these 18-22 year olds when you turn around and there are eyes looking in that same room.

Lia Thomas at the NCAA Championships

Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers holds the NCAA 500-yard freestyle champion trophy as she walks with her coach Mike Schnur after winning the event during the Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship of the 2022 NCAA Games at the McAuley Aquatic Center on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus on March 17, 2022 in Atlanta. (Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)


«And I can attest to the whispers and the complaints of anger and frustration from these girls who, like me, worked their entire lives to get to this competition. I can attest to the fact that across the country these athletes who stood up to Lia Thomas’ inclusion in the women’s division was threatened, intimidated and emotionally blackmailed into silence and submission.»