Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a proclamation on Tuesday declaring the runner-up the “legitimate winner” of a 500-yard freestyle competition instead of NCAA transgender champion Lia Thomas.
The Republican governor named University of Virginia freshman Emma Weyant the champion after she was beaten by 22-year-old Thomas in Thursday’s NCAA swim meet by 1.75 seconds.
“By allowing men to compete in women’s sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, mocking their championships, and perpetuating fraud,” DeSantis said. wrote on Twitter. “In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota’s Emma Weyant as the top female swimmer in the 500 Freestyle.”
The proclamation declares Weyant the “rightful winner” and congratulates her on the “meaningful achievement”.
DeSantis spoke out against Thomas at an independent press conference at Wesley Chapel, the Miami Herald reported.
“We need to stop allowing organizations like the NCAA to perpetuate fraud on the public, and that’s exactly what they’re doing,” DeSantis said.
Thomas, who swam for three years at Penn as a man before transitioning, has been a frequent target for critics who question the fairness of an athlete who was born a biological male competing against women.
The NCAA established new regulations regarding transgender athletes earlier this season and eligibility requirements are now left to individual sports. Thomas was cleared to compete this season because she had been on testosterone suppression therapy for over a year.
Still, that didn’t stop critics like DeSantis and a Virginia Tech swimmer who failed to make the 500-yard final after Thomas dominated a qualifying run.
“It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it’s disrespectful to biologically female swimmers competing in the NCAA,” Virginia Tech’s Reka Gyorgy reportedly wrote on her private Instagram account.
Gyorgy added that while she supports and respects Thomas, citing his intense training regimen like other college swimmers, she blamed the NCAA.
“On the other hand, I would like to criticize the NCAA rules that allow him to compete with us, who are biologically female,” Gyorgy’s post continued on his private Instagram profile.
DeSantis, meanwhile, is widely seen as a strong contender to become the GOP presidential nominee in 2024 and signed a bill last year banning transgender athletes from playing school sports with women and girls. At least 10 other states have similar laws or policies, the Miami Herald reported.
DeSantis’ proclamation insisted that “men shouldn’t compete with women” like Weyant, who he said was robbed of his top spot.
“Florida rejects NCAA efforts to destroy women’s athletics, disapproves of NCAA elevating ideology above biology, and takes offense to NCAA attempting to make others complicit in a lie “, continues the proclamation.
A message seeking comment from NCAA officials was not immediately returned Tuesday.