- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2022

A Virginia Tech senior who missed the cut by one spot in a race won by Lia Thomas released a letter Sunday urging the NCAA to change its rules on male-born athletes in women’s sports, saying the current system is “hurting athletes, especially female swimmers.”

Reka Gyorgy, a fifth-year senior who competed for Hungary in the 2016 Rio Olympics, said that she placed 17th in the 500-yard freestyle, missing the consolation final by one spot Thursday at the NCAA Division I women’s swimming championships at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania senior, won the 500, defeating three Olympic silver medalists to become the first male-born athlete to win an NCAA Division I women’s crown.

“I’m a 5th year senior, I have been top 16 and top 8 before and I know how much of a privilege it is to make finals at a meet this big,” Gyorgy said in the letter reprinted on SwimSwam and Swimming World. “This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated. It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete.”

The eight swimmers with the best times in the preliminary round qualify for the final, while the next eight make the consolation final.

“I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a bit different and I can’t help but be angry or sad,” said Gyorgy. “It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool.”

Some of Thomas’ Penn teammates have complained anonymously to news outlets about Thomas being allowed to compete against women after three years on the men’s team, but Gyorgy is the first Division I swimmer to raise objections under her own name.

“I’m writing this letter right now in hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future,” Gyorgy said. “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.”

Thomas complied with NCAA rules requiring male-born athletes to undergo at least a year of testosterone suppression before competing on the women’s team for the 2021-22 season.

In January, however, the NCAA Board of Governors changed its policy, voting to defer decisions on transgender eligibility to the governing bodies of each sport.

When USA Swimming issued criteria that would have prevented Thomas from competing in the NCAA championships, however, the NCAA backtracked, saying it would be unfair to transgender athletes to change the rules mid-season.

The NCAA instead required male-born athletes to submit test results showing their testosterone in serum below 10 nanomoles per liter, the standard previously recommended by the International Olympic Committee.

Gyorgy emphasized that her disagreement was with the NCAA and not Thomas.

“I respect and fully stand with Lia Thomas; I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D1 swimmer who has woken up at 5am her entire life for morning practice,” Gyorgy said. “She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for a competition.”

Gyorgy also asked those disseminating her statement to release it in its entirety. Her full statement can be read here.

Thomas ended her collegiate career at the championships with a first-place finish in the 500; a fifth-place finish in the 200 freestyle, and an eighth-place finish in the 100 freestyle.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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