Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has issued a Proclamation that a Resident of his state is the “rightful” holder of the NCAA 500m freestyle title won by trans swimmer Lia Thomas last week.
Thomas made history last Thursday as the first known transgender athlete to win a US college swimming championship when she took the title in Atlanta. However, her Victory caused a backlash among right-wing politicians as well as groups that oppose transgender athletes taking part in women’s competition.
On Tuesday, DeSantis, who many see as a Republican contender in the next U.S. Presidential election, declared that Emma Weyant, a Florida resident who competes for the University of Virginia and finished second to Thomas, was the “rightful Winner” of the race.
“It is my determination that men should not be competing against women such as Emma Weyant,” DeSantis wrote in his Proclamation. “… Florida rejects the NCAA’s efforts to Destroy Women’s Athletics, disapproves of the NCAA’s elevating ideology over Biology, and takes offense at the NCAA’s attempt to make others complicit in a lie.”
USA Swimming’s policy states that trans Athletes must undergo three years of hormone replacement therapy before being allowed to compete. Thomas is six months short of that target but the NCAA decided not to adopt US Swimming’s rules and allowed the senior to compete in Atlanta.
DeSantis’s Proclamation has no power to change last week’s result and is a continuation of policies in Florida that target the LGBTQ + community. In June, he signed into the law the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which bans anyone assigned as male at birth from competing in girls and women’s sports. The state’s ‘don’t say gay’ bill has also caused controversy, and this week the Orlando Pride soccer team apologized after barring a fan banner that contained the word ‘gay’.
Thomas has received both support and Criticism. On Monday, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe received a transgender athlete pose a risk to the Integrity of Women’s Sports.
“Gender cannot Trump Biology. As a Federation president, I do not have that luxury. It is a luxury that other organizations do not at the practical end of having to deal with these issues have, ”Coe told the Daily Telegraph. “But as far as I am concerned, the scientific evidence, the peer-reviewed work we have done, those regulations are the right approach.”
But some of Thomas’s fellow swimmers have shown their support. Texas’ Erica Sullivan, who finished third behind Thomas and Weyant in the 500m freestyle, wrote an essay for Newsweek in which she argued Women’s sports has other issues that are far more important to address.
“As a woman in sports, I can tell you that I know what the real threats to women’s sports are: sexual abuse and harassment, unequal pay and resources and a lack of women in leadership. Transgender girls and women are now on this list, ”Sullivan wrote.
Weyant, who won an Olympic silver medal in the 400m individual Medley last summer in Tokyo, has yet to comment publicly on DeSantis’s Proclamation. Thomas, Meanwhile, has chosen to restrict her comments to her swimming.
“I try to focus on my swimming, what I need to do to get ready for my races and just try to block out everything else,” she said after Thursday’s Victory.