PUNTA GORDA, Florida–Governor Ron DeSantis on March 22, declared runner-up swimmer Sarasota native Emma Weyant the “rightful winner of the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Women’s 500-yard Freestyle” over biological male Lia Thomas.
Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania student, finished the event at 4:33:24, and the University of Virginia’s Weyant came in second with a time of 4:34:99 at the competition in Atlanta on March 17.
“We’re doing [this] proclamation, saying that Emma is the best female swimmer in the 500 freestyle because she earned that, and we need to stop allowing organizations like the NCAA to perpetuate frauds on the public–And that’s exactly what they’re doing,” DeSantis said in a press release. “And so in Florida, we’re gonna be very clear when they try to do things like that … when they try to counteract the ability of women to realize their dreams, we are gonna speak out about that.”
The NCAA had not responded to The Epoch Times’ requests for comment by press time.
DeSantis went on to say that women have “fought for decades” for “equal opportunities in athletics” and allowing a biological male to compete “erodes” those opportunities for women in sports.
“As a father of two daughters, I want my girls, and every girl in Florida, to compete on an even playing field for the opportunities available to young women in sports,” he said in January 2021.
In Florida’s full legislative session last year, the governor signed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” a bill he said will “preserve fair opportunities for female athletes and may not be open to students of the male sex,” based on the student’s biological sex listed on an official birth record.
At the time, the NCAA said it would consider pulling championships from states that ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports.
“This did not deter the governor from signing the bill,” Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary said in a written statement. “On the contrary, it only strengthened his resolve to protect athletic opportunities for women and girls in Florida.”
According to the NCAA, Thomas, 22, began transitioning in 2019 with hormone therapy and followed NCAA and Ivy League rules. However, Thomas was scrutinized by those inside and outside the sport about whether transgender women and girls should be allowed to compete in female sports.
A letter written on behalf of 16 unnamed members of UPenn’s swim team was in response to the NCAA’s updated policy to allow each sport to determine the eligibility of transgender athletes. They asked that Thomas not be allowed to compete in the NCAA swim event on March 17.
The letter read in part, “We fully support Lia Thomas in her decision to affirm her gender identity and to transition from a man to a woman–Lia has every right to live her life authentically.”
“However,” the letter continued. “We also recognize that, when it comes to sports competition, the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity. Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over the competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female.”
So far, 11 states have passed laws banning transgenders from competing on sports teams that match their “gender identities.” They are Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Texas, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Tennessee.