17th-Place Finisher in 500 Reka Gyorgy Pens Letter to NCAA on Transgender Rules

by Spencer Penland 182

March 20th, 2022 College, News

Virginia Tech 5th year Reka Gyorgy has released a letter to the NCAA addressing her opinion on the organization’s controversial transgender policy, which allowed Penn 5th year Lia Thomas to compete at the NCAA Championships last week.

Gyorgy offers a unique perspective on the situation, as she finished 17th in prelims of the 500 free last Thursday, one spot out of qualifying for finals. The 500 was, of course, the event that Thomas would go on to win with a time of 4:33.24.

Towards the beginning of her remarks, Gyorgy says ” I (Reka) respect and fully stand with Lia Thomas; I am convinced that she is no different from me or any other D1 swimmer who has woken up at 5am her entire life for morning practice.” She talks about the sacrifice she knows are associated with a commitment to swimming, such as missing vacations and holidays. “She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right.”

Gyorgy then gets into her criticisms of the NCAA’s transgender policy, stating “On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.” She talks about how she’s a 5th year senior at Virginia Tech, and this was her last collegiate meet competing for the Hokies, saying she feels “frustrated.” In Gyorgy’s view, the current transgender athlete policies don’t “promote our sport in a good way and I (Gyorgy) think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.”

She expands the context of her complaints outside of just her finishing 17th in the 500 free last week, arguing “one spot was taken away from the girl who got 9th in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final preventing her from being an All-American. Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet.”

Gyorgy makes her most pointed criticisms at the end of her letter, saying “The NCAA knew what was coming this past week.” She goes on to highlight how she feels the meet was “more about reporters, media and division,” instead of the historic swims that took place, citing Kate Douglass and Gretchen Walsh’s 20-point 50 frees, Katharine Berkoff’s American Record 100 back, and the depth and speed of the women’s 100 fly. To Gyorgy’s point, there was far more mainstream media attention the meet this year than previous years, and that was transparently because of the controversy surrounding the NCAA’s policy.

Gyorgy is a 2-time ACC Champion, 2-time NCAA All-American, and 3-time NCAA Honorable Mention All-American. She has requested that anyone who reports on her statement release her full remarks, so here is her full letter to the NCAA, which I (the writer of the article) urge everyone to read in its entirety:

Dear NCAA,

I would like to address this past week’s events and express my thoughts. First, I would like to remind everyone that I am a human being and that as a human being I experience feelings and emotions.

My name is Reka Gyorgy from Hungary. I am a 2016 Rio Olympian, represented Virginia Tech for the past 5 years, a 2 time ACC Champion, 2 time All-American and 3 time Honorable Mention All-American.

With all due respect, I would like to address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes, especially female swimmers. Everyone has heard and known about transgender, Lia Thomas, and her case including all the issues and concerns that her situation brought into our sport. I’d like to point out that 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. She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for a competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right. On the other hand, I would
like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.

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

I swam the 500 free at NCAA’s on March 17th, 2022 where I got 17th which means I didn’t make it back to the finals and was first alternate. 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. 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. 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. It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool. One spot was taken away from the girl who got 9th in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final preventing her from being an All-American. Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females throughout the meet.

The NCAA knew what was coming this past week. They knew opinions and minds will be divided and chose to do nothing. This week has been more about reporters, media and division in our sport than things like two women going under 21 seconds in the 50 freestyle, 3 women going under 50 seconds in the 100 butterfly and the first woman IN HISTORY to go under 48 seconds in the 100 backstroke. Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault. It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes. I ask that the NCAA takes time to think about all the other biological women in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes. Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.

Thank you for reading,

Reka Gyorgy, Virginia Tech swimmer

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Kris
3 months ago

Peculiarly, none of those huge, record-breaking accomplishments that she mentioned were by Lia Thomas.

ooo
3 months ago

The Economist has a leader on this “Facing the Facts” LIA THOMAS, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, is an excellent swimmer. She often beats her rivals by tens of seconds, breaking records. Her success is based on three things. One is natural talent. Another is relentless training. And the third is biology. ….

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2022/03/19/sports-should-have-two-categories-open-and-female

fastieswimmer
Reply to  ooo
3 months ago

A major factor, I think, is the third: biology. We all know that athletes at this level enjoy the sport and have some talent for it, as well as going through an insane amount of training.

Washed Up
3 months ago

With all respect to Ms. Gyorgy – she has taken a scholarship from an American swimmer whose family has paid state and federal taxes their entire life in order for Ms Gyorgy to swim and get a degree at no charge for an American college. What about all the fine American girls who could have swum for VT? I’d honestly say that is the next controversy to be discussed is the large numbers of foreign athletes competing and getting full rides In a number of men’s and women’s NCAA sports. We are literally paying for the training, food, lodging and college of our international competition in a number of sports.

Tyler
Reply to  Washed Up
3 months ago

I agree with you about international students training in the US and then competing for their home countries against the US being an odd situation, but that’s off topic and doesn’t take away from Ms. Gyorgy’s point in the article. She is spot on here.

mcmflyguy
Reply to  Washed Up
3 months ago

Taken, or earned? did she not swim fast enough to earn her scholarship for you? or perhaps the hypothetical American she stole the scholarship from should have swam faster? your deflecting here, and it’s painfully obvious.

Keith Morrison
3 months ago

Have you ever noticed no one takes 10 more minutes to understand that transgender athletes actually have to test at a certain testosterone level to compete? On top of that having a decreased testosterone level with larger frame puts you actually at a disadvantage to your cisgender peers. I think your average layman thinks that any man can just start competing when in reality they need to test at a certain testosterone level, be on hormone therapy for at least a year and not to mention actually be medically defined by a legitimate doctor as transgender. It’s something like 99.3% of self-identifying transgenders don’t actually get this medical “certification”.

Also if anyone watched the actual race Lia was behind… Read more »

mcmflyguy
Reply to  Keith Morrison
3 months ago

None of it has been about what she has tested at now. its about WHEN she transitioned, which was after getting all the great benefits of male puberty.

SoBuoyantSoSlow
Reply to  Keith Morrison
3 months ago

The testosterone levels that transwomen have been asked to reduce to are still much higher than the levels that normally occur in women, even at the extremes. I have abnormally high testosterone for a woman, but it’s still well below the threshold for a transwoman. Aside from that, reducing testosterone has not and cannot be definitively proven to remove the advantages gained from male puberty. Lia’s performance has been all over the place. Many have pointed out that she seems to be holding back to keep from winning by too much of a lead or from winning too many races. If more effort were made to study how much of an advantage is lost over time, how would we ever… Read more »

fastieswimmer
Reply to  Keith Morrison
3 months ago

It doesn’t matter. Having transitioned to female after going through male puberty gives her the advantage. She has a bigger wingspan, bigger lungs, she’s taller, she has more muscle mass; she has so much more than cis women.

Jason
3 months ago

Very brave and very well written Reka. Well the voting is unanimous on Lia articles, the overwhelming majority of us swim fans want to see fair sport for our female athletes. Time to stop the circus before more swimming careers are destroyed.

AlexPopovTurtle
3 months ago

What about a protest? The student athletes don’t work for the NCAA, but rather the NCAA is a customer of the athletes that bring in the money. If they can’t do their job then fire the boss, otherwise if you can’t fire the boss then you quit working for them aka a protest. Just saying! This can go a long way even if you got 50% of the population to do it. Maybe it will convince them to start a separate transgender league and Lia can race by herself.

fastieswimmer
Reply to  AlexPopovTurtle
3 months ago

While that would help, I believe a separate transgender league could be seen as segregation and therefore more conflicts may arise. A better solution could be to have an “open” league or have men’s competition be “open”. Lia wouldn’t be very fast by men’s standards, considering the times she’s laying down currently (although they’re fast for women). And what if a woman wanted to transition to a man? A biological female could enter men’s competition if a biological male could enter women’s, right? But why would they? They could identify as a male, be biologically a woman, and compete in women’s sport. And they would do that because they know they wouldn’t be able to be as good as the… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by fastieswimmer
swimfast
3 months ago

That last paragraph in particular is a frustration that I think all swim fans can agree on. I saw several comments on Youtube videos of the 100 Back or 100 Fly making snide remarks at Thomas when those races had absolutely nothing to do with her and you can just tell that these people have zero interest whatsoever in women’s swimming (or maybe even swimming at all) because it’s crazy that you are watching Berkoff swim the first 48 ever to beat Smith AND White and then Walsh popping off a massive PB to also go under the old AR and your only comment to any of this is to make a disparaging remark about somebody who isn’t even in… Read more »

too fly
Reply to  swimfast
3 months ago

💯

mcmflyguy
3 months ago

poor joke and in poor taste.