No, the NCAA did not say it is transferring swimmer Lia Thomas's medals to Riley Gaines

By: Annet Preethi Furtado
July 3 2024

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No, the NCAA did not say it is transferring swimmer Lia Thomas's medals to Riley Gaines

Screenshots of the viral claim that the NCAA is transferring medals from transgender swimmer Lia Thomas to Riley Gaines. (Source: X/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)

Fact-Check

The Verdict False

The claim that the National Collegiate Athletic Association is transferring medals from Lia Thomas to Riley Gaines is untrue.

Claim ID 8a534ec4

What's the claim?

Social media users have shared posts on Facebook and Instagram claiming the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), an organization overseeing student athletics for more than 1,000 schools in the U.S. and one in Canada, has announced U.S. swimmer Lia Thomas will lose all her medals. According to the posts, fellow U.S. swimmer Riley Gaines will instead receive them.

Posts carried side-by-side images of Thomas and Gaines, with the text: "NCAA: Lia Thomas loses all of his medals, Riley Gaines is getting them all." The posts, with captions such as "Common sense at last" and "UPDATE: Sack everyone who allowed this in the first place," have been shared and have garnered about 3,500 likes. Archived versions of these posts can be found here and here. The narrative also appeared on Instagram, with an archived post available here.

Screenshot of some of the social media posts. (Source: Facebook/Instagram/Modified by Logically Facts)

In March 2022, Thomas from the University of Pennsylvania made history by winning the women's 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships with a record time of 4:33.24, becoming the first openly trans woman to win a national championship in Division I athletics. During the same championships, Riley Gaines from the University of Kentucky tied for fifth place with Thomas in the women's 200-yard freestyle. Thomas's participation sparked criticism from activists who argued that transgender athletes have unfair physical advantages and should not compete in women's sports.

However, the claim in the viral posts originally appeared in an article labeled "satire."

What we found

We found that the claim originated from an article (archived here) on SpaceXMania, a site that describes itself as publishing "freshest fake news, some sassy analysis, and a good dose of satire, all rolled into one crazy concoction that orbits around Elon Musk and everything that's lighting up the viral/trending charts." (archived here

The story, labeled as "satire," was published in November 2023 and titled "Breaking: NCAA To Transfer Medals from Lia Thomas to Riley Gaines."

Screenshot of the SpaceXMania's bio and the satire label on the story. (Source: SpaceXMania/Modified by Logically Facts)

Moreover, the NCAA awarded trophies, not medals, during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on March 17, 2022, at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Photos of Lia Thomas and Riley Gaines holding trophies. (Source: AP Newsroom/Modified by Logically Facts)

We found no credible reports about the NCAA announcing a decision to transfer medals from Thomas to Gaines. 

The claim also went viral in 2023. At the time, The Associated Press debunked it, with Greg Johnson, an NCAA spokesperson, confirming that "the results of the race are final." Logically Facts has also contacted the NCAA for comment; this story will be updated if and when we receive a response.

Recent developments regarding Thomas

Thomas is currently ineligible to compete in elite women's races, including the 2024 Paris Olympics, due to a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but can still participate in U.S. Swimming events that do not qualify as elite events.

In 2022, after Thomas made history by becoming the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship in the U.S. on June 19, 2022, World Aquatics (formerly FINA) effectively banned transgender women from competing in women's events. 

The new "gender inclusion policy," supported by 71.5 percent of FINA members, permits only swimmers who transitioned before age 12 to compete in women's events. Thomas, who is 25 years old, started her transition in 2019, undergoing hormone replacement therapy.

In January, Thomas lodged a case with the CAS to overturn the ban and compete in elite female races. She argued that the provisions were "invalid and unlawful" as they contradicted the Olympic Charter and the World Aquatics constitution. However, the court concluded that Thomas was "simply not entitled to engage with eligibility to compete in WA competitions" as she was no longer a member of U.S. Swimming.

The verdict

The claim that the NCAA is transferring medals from transgender swimmer Lia Thomas to Riley Gaines is not true. It originated from a story labeled as "satire." Social media users have been sharing it falsely without this additional context. Therefore, we mark this claim as false. 

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