Fact Check: Lia Thomas Was Rejected From US 2024 Olympic Swim Team While Riley Gaines Got a Spot?

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons
Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Claim:

In November 2023, swimmer Riley Gaines earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, while Lia Thomas, the first transgender swimmer to win a national championship, was rejected.

Rating:

Rating: Labeled Satire
Rating: Labeled Satire

On Nov. 15, SpaceXMania.com published an article claiming that Riley Gaines, a former swimmer who has  campaigned against transgender women's participation in sports, earned a spot on the United States 2024 Olympic team while Lia Thomas, the first transgender swimmer to win a NCAA Division I national championship, missed out.

The article was shared to the site's Facebook page SpaceX Lovers, where it garnered over 195,000 likes. Commenters celebrated Gaines' supposed accomplishment while misgendering and insulting Thomas, implying that most people who viewed the post on Facebook assumed the story was true.

Breaking: Riley Gaines Secures 2024 Olympic Spot, While Lia Thomas Faces Rejection

In the dynamic and emotionally charged world of competitive swimming, the journey to the Olympics is a tale of triumphs and heartbreaks. The latest chapter unfolds with Riley Gaines securing her spot in the 2024 Olympic Games, while Lia Thomas faces the disappointment of rejection. The pool of emotions runs deep, as these two swimmers navigate the complexities of recognition, acceptance, and the pursuit of athletic dreams.

None of the story was true. On SpaceXMania's website, the article was marked as satire. The site's disclaimer page (see below) notes that any articles it marks as satirical have no basis in reality. The accompanying Facebook post made no mention of the satire tag on the website, though.

Please note that the article under the category “SATIRE” are satirical in nature and are not meant to be taken seriously. These articles are meant to be humorous and are often entirely made up. We make no claim that the information presented in these articles is true or accurate.

No spots on the 2024 Olympic team have been awarded to any swimmer yet. The U.S. Olympic trials will be hosted in Indianapolis, Indiana, from June 15-23, 2024. USA Swimming has a strict procedure for rostering its Olympic swimming team, which is capped at 26 swimmers of each gender. Winning an event always guarantees an Olympic spot, as does finishing in the top four of the 100 and 200 freestyle (relay events). If a different swimmer won every event, that would be 20 spots, but that never happens, as qualifying in multiple events is common and frees up more roster spots. After that, second-place finishers in other events earn a spot on the team. The fifth- and sixth-place finishers in the 100 and 200 freestyle are the lowest priorities.

Gaines and Thomas tied for fifth in the 200 freestyle at the 2022 NCAA Division I National Championships. Not long after, Gaines began speaking out against transgender women in sports. And while Gaines could still compete at the Olympic trials and attempt to earn a roster spot, Thomas cannot: World Aquatics (formerly FINA) banned transgender women from competing in women's events in 2022.

Snopes has previously fact-checked articles about Thomas and Gaines, including one that claimed Gaines sued Thomas for $2 million, and a separate claim that Gaines had settled a $1.2 million lawsuit with Thomas. Neither was true and both were also satirical.

For background, here is why we sometimes write about satire/humor.

Sources:

Anderson, Jared. “Why 2nd-Placers Aren’t Officially U.S. Olympians Yet (But Why They Will Be).” SwimSwam, 16 June 2021, https://swimswam.com/why-2nd-placers-arent-officially-u-s-olympians-yet-but-why-they-will-be/.

Breaking: Riley Gaines Secures 2024 Olympic Spot, While Lia Thomas Faces Rejection. 15 Nov. 2023, https://spacexmania.com/breaking-riley-gaines-secures-2024-olympic-spot-while-lia-thomas-faces-rejection/.

Disclaimer - SpaceXMania. 3 Jan. 2021, https://spacexmania.com/disclaimer/.

Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/SpaceXElon/posts/pfbid02tSz3tLTu2YUfmsaq2jez5jzdtpofBfFj463v99JZTa7zJ8z11RasKDzsdhGuAjbel. Accessed 17 Nov. 2023.

Liles, Jordan. “Former Swimmer Riley Gaines Sues Lia Thomas for $2M?” Snopes, 15 Sept. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/gaines-sues-thomas-satire/.

---. “Riley Gaines Settled a Lawsuit Against Swimmer Lia Thomas for $1.2M?” Snopes, 16 Aug. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/gaines-thomas-lawsuit-satire/.

Trials. http://www.usaswimming.org/about-usas/resources/trials. Accessed 17 Nov. 2023.

Women’s 200 Freestyle | 2022 NCAA Swimming Championships. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thtX33M2nrM. Accessed 17 Nov. 2023.