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Male dropped request to compete as female swimmer, even as Roanoke College rushed to accommodate


Riley Gaines says Roanoke’s trans athlete is ‘another mediocre male athlete identifying as a woman’

Roanoke College recently joined the list of schools allowing men to compete with the women after a transgender student requested to join the women’s swim team.

However, the student who wanted an opportunity to compete with the women changed his mind before the rule was passed.

The male student is reportedly no longer pursuing his request, even after the school rushed to figure out a way to accommodate him. The process played out as some members of the women’s swim team held a press conference to criticize the male swimmer’s request.

The male swimmer at the Salem, Virginia college “had competed on the men’s swim team as a first-year student, then took a year off from competition before returning to the sport this season,” the college said in a statement.

A College Fix review of the 2021-22 men’s swim roster compared to the 2022-23 swim roster identified only one freshman who was not on the team the following year.

In response to an email Friday asking about the student’s identity, a campus spokesperson told The Fix, “The name you referenced is not the correct name of our transgender student. For safety reasons, we will not be releasing the student’s name.”

The Fix followed-up on Saturday morning and asked for clarification if the name used in the original media inquiry was at one time the name the swimmer went by.

Riley Gaines, an advocate of protecting women’s sports, was present at the “NCAA — Save Women’s Sports!” event organized by Independent Women’s Forum and spoke with The College Fix about its importance.

“It’s refreshing to see a group of girls willing to say enough is enough when they’re faced with an injustice,” Gaines told The Fix via text messaging. “I’m so proud to link arms with them in the fight to save women’s sports.”

At the press conference, Gaines said she “saw first hand the effects” of men competing against women, referencing her own experience swimming against William Thomas, a male University of Pennsylvania swimmer.

It was “just a year and a half ago when we were forced to compete and change in a locker room with Lia (formerly Will) Thomas,” Gaines said at the press conference in early October. “Just as a reminder, Thomas went from 462nd in the men’s category to then winning a national title in the women’s category just one year later.”

She also speculated around the reasoning the trans athlete at Roanoke retracted his decision to compete with the women.

“He quit right before,” Gaines said. “The university knew the press conference was going to happen so I think he was advised to quit.”

The university, however, disputed Gaines’ theory in a statement to The Fix.

“The college did not pressure the swimmer to quit before the press conference, as alleged by Ms. Gaines,” the unsigned statement from the Roanoke College’s Marketing and Communications office reads.

The women’s swim team at Roanoke did not respond to two requests for comment in the past several weeks that asked about the press conference and if the coaches supported the swimmers.

The college said it plans to pursue a “phase-in process” for transgender athletes.

“This means Roanoke College will defer to the policy of the national governing body of each sport regarding student-athlete participation eligibility,” the college stated.

Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr. cited the school’s commitment to “supporting our LGBTQ+ community and our student-athletes” as reasoning for adopting the policy.

Editor’s note: The article has been updated with information on a follow-up email sent to The Fix by Roanoke.

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IMAGE: Independent Women’s Forum

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About the Author
Logan Dubil -- Point Park University