Governor Ron DeSantis recognized runner-up Emma Weyant as the legitimate winner
Transgender woman Lia Thomas stands on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle, March 17, 2022, Atlanta, Georgia © Getty Images / Justin Casterline
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an order on Tuesday refusing to recognize a transgender swimmer as the winner of a recent women’s swimming race and instead recognizing the runner-up.
Male-born transgender swimmer Lia Thomas was declared the winner of the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship on Thursday, sparking outrage from critics who argued that the runner-up – Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant – should be considered the real victor.
In a statement on Tuesday, DeSantis became the first governor to officially recognize Weyant as the legitimate winner of the race instead of Thomas, and accused the National Collegiate Athletic Association of working to destroy women’s sports.
“A male identifying as a woman was allowed to compete in and was declared the winner of the race by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Emma was determined to have come in second place,” DeSantis wrote, before pointing out that Florida’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act states men should be prohibited from taking part in women’s sports.
“Women have fought for decades to have equal opportunities in athletics, and it is wrong to allow ideology to erode these opportunities as is happening in other states,” the governor said. “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 added that the state “rejects the NCAA’s efforts to destroy women’s athletics, disapproves of the NCAA elevating ideology over biology, and takes offense at the NCAA trying to make others complicit in a lie,” before recognizing Weyant as “the rightful winner” of the race.
This week, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe warned that “gender cannot trump biology” and that there is “no question” testosterone is “the key determinant in performance.”
“I think that the integrity of women’s sport if we don’t get this right, and actually the future of women’s sport, is very fragile,” he said.