Lia Thomas
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas captured the US collegiate 500-yard crown at the NCAA championships GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP / Kathryn Riley

Former All-American swimmer Riley Gaines from the University of Kentucky did not hold back from slamming US President Joe Biden, who promised to veto a bill that protects women's rights in sports.

Gaines gained notoriety for speaking up on behalf of female athletes after she herself had to compete against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas at the NCAA championships last year. She has since become an outspoken advocate of the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, or H.R. 734 which aims to prevent biological males from competing in women's sports after having become transgender.

The White House recently released a statement confirming that Biden plans to veto the bill, and Gaines spoke to Fox News to criticise the president. "The president has declared that science, truth and common sense no longer matter. In opposing this bill, President Biden is catering to a radical minority at the expense of women, who are 51% of the population," Gaines said.

By radical minority, she is referring to biological males like Thomas, who had previously competed in men's swimming competitions before switching over to the women's division as a transgender where she broke a number of records.

She then questioned why "equal opportunity, privacy and safety" in sports have now become controversial topics. "The women who once advocated for Title IX should be outraged as this goes against everything they fought for. Female athletes of all ages, levels and sports deserve better," she said.

What is the current status of the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act?

As of now, the US Congress has not yet passed H.R. 734. However, the debate is heating up because the bill will be put to a vote on the floor at the House of Representatives this week. The bill has a strong backing from Republicans, while Democrats are strongly opposed.

Previously, the bill was approved with a 25-17 vote at the House Education and Workforce Committee. The divide was clear as every Republican voted in favour, while Democrats opposed. The same can be expected on the floor this week.

Needless to say, with Biden being a Democrat, the White House confirmed that the president opposes the bill and claims that it would "deny access to sports for many families by establishing an absolute ban on transgender students."

The White House also said that passing such a bill is unnecessary" and that it is "discriminatory" and would only serve to hurt students and their families.

The statements did not go down well with Gaines, who has spoken widely about the trauma felt by female athletes who missed out on important spots in competitions after being bumped down the order by transgender athletes. She also spoke about the shock and trauma that she and other female athletes endured after having been forced to share a locker room with a transgender athlete who still has male genitalia intact.

What are the key points of H.R. 734?

The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act states that educational institutions that receive Title IX funding from the federal government would not be allowed to "permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designed for women or girls."

This is not restricted only to swimming, where Gaines has personal experience. It would cover a variety of other competitions where men and women have traditionally competed in separate divisions.

While there are now ways to change one's gender in legal documents, the bill will ensure that athletes will only be categorised according to their "reproductive biology and genetics at birth." This means that even males who receive hormone therapy or puberty blockers at an early age won't be able to qualify for women's sports. However, a transgender female athlete would be allowed to train or practice in a girls' athletic program if no biological female is deprived of a spot.