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NCAA Strips Lia Thomas of Titles, Names Riley Gaines New Champion

The NCAA is transferring medals won by transgender swimmer Lia Thomas to Riley Gaines, another former Division I swimmer.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The claim first appeared in an article that is clearly labeled as satire. An NCAA spokesperson told The Associated Press that Thomas and Gaines tied for fifth place in the women’s 200-yard freestyle race at a 2022 championship meet and that the results are final.

THE FACTS: Amid a congressional hearing Tuesday that examined the participation of transgender athletes in women’s sports, posts circulated on social media falsely claiming Thomas’ collegiate accolades would be given to Gaines.

“NCAA Reevaluates Medal Distribution, Acknowledges Mistake And Will Transfer Medals from Lia Thomas to Riley Gaines,” reads one Facebook post that had received more than 3,500 reactions as of Wednesday.

But the claim originated in an article on SpaceXMania, a site that describes itself as publishing “the freshest fake news, some sassy analysis, and a good dose of satire.” Multiple satire labels also appear on the story itself. Neither the article nor social media posts sharing the claim as true specify which awards the NCAA would allegedly be reallocating.

Thomas and Gaines tied for fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle race at the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, where Thomas swam for the University of Pennsylvania and Gaines for the University of Kentucky.

“The results of the race are final,” Greg Johnson, an NCAA spokesperson, told the AP in an email. Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle race at the meet, making her the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship. Gaines did not participate in the race. Moreover, the NCAA awarded trophies for both races — not medals. Gaines has opposed transgender athletes competing in women’s sports and openly condemned the NCAA’s decision to allow Thomas to compete against her in the 2022 championships.

She was among four witnesses to testify at a House Oversight subcommittee hearing on Tuesday about changes to Title IX proposed by the Department of Education. The changes include a clarification that the law applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Thomas began her transition in 2019.

She continued to swim on the Penn men’s team that year while beginning hormone replacement therapy and joined the women’s team for the 2021-2022 season after taking a year off of school. Her subsequent success came with criticism about whether a swimmer who competed as a man should be allowed to race against women.___

This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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