Respect

DeSantis rejects transgender swimmer Lia Thomas’s NCAA victory

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Story at a glance

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday said he would not recognize Lia Thomas’ NCAA victory and would instead be honoring second-place finisher Emma Weyant, who is originally from Florida.
  • Thomas last week won the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA finals, becoming the first openly transgender woman to win a national Division I title.
  • Weyant, who is an Olympic silver medalist, finished more than one second behind Thomas, though neither of them came close to touching the NCAA 500-yard freestyle record set by Olympian Katie Ledecky in 2017.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday said he refuses to acknowledge the historic win of Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania, at the NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships last week. 

The governor instead recognized the runner-up, Florida native Emma Weyant, of the University of Virginia, as the “rightful” winner of the 500-yard freestyle.

“By allowing men to compete in women’s sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships, and perpetuating a fraud,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota’s Emma Weyant as the best women’s swimmer in the 500y freestyle.”

Thomas last week at the NCAA finals in Atlanta became the first transgender woman to win a national Division I championship, finishing the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:33.24, a season best for her, but still nowhere near the NCAA record set by Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky in 2017 while she was competing for Stanford University.

Weyant, an Olympic silver medalist, touched the wall more than a second after Thomas, finishing with a time of 4:34.99, according to NCAA race results.


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Current NCAA policy allows transgender female athletes to compete on a collegiate women’s sports team after completing a full calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment. Thomas, who swam for Penn’s men’s team for three years, has been receiving gender-affirming hormones for more than two and a half years.

In a statement posted to Twitter, DeSantis incorrectly said Thomas is a “male identifying as a woman,” and criticized the NCAA for failing to protect its female athletes.

“Women have fought for decades to have equal opportunities in athletics and it is wrong to allow ideology to erode opportunities as is happening in other states,” he wrote, adding: “It is my determination that men should not be competing against women such as Emma Weyant, robbing women and girls of achievements, awards, and scholarships.”

DeSantis said Florida rejects the NCAA’s “efforts to destroy women’s sports” and disapproves of it “elevating ideology over biology.” The governor also cited Florida’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which was signed into law in June and specifies that participation in school sports is to be determined by a student’s “biological sex” listed on their original birth certificate.

“Since she is a native Floridian from Sarasota, I, Ron DeSantis, Governor of the State of Florida, do hereby declare in Florida that Emma Weyant is the rightful winner of the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Women’s 500-yard Freestyle, congratulate her on another significant achievement, and express pride that she is a Florida resident,” he wrote.


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