Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a proclamation Tuesday that declared the runner-up the “rightful winner” of a 500-yard freestyle competition instead of transgender NCAA champion Lia Thomas.
The Republican governor named University of Virginia freshman Emma Weyant as the champion after she was defeated by Thomas, 22, in the NCAA swimming competition Thursday by 1.75 seconds.
“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.”
The proclamation states that Weyant is the “rightful winner” and congratulates her on the “significant achievement.”
DeSantis spoke out against Thomas at an unrelated news conference in 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 male prior to 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 made new regulations regarding transgender athletes earlier this season and eligibility requirements are now left up to individual sports. Thomas has been allowed to compete this season because she had been taking testosterone suppression treatment for more than a year.
Still, that hasn’t stopped critics like DeSantis and a Virginia Tech swimmer who failed to get into the 500-yard freestyle final after Thomas dominated a qualifying race.
“It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are 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 her intense practice regimen like other collegiate swimmers, she faulted the NCAA.
“On the other hand, I would like to criticize the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women,” Gyorgy’s post on her private Instagram profile continued.
DeSantis, meanwhile, is widely considered a strong contender to become the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2024 and signed a bill into law last year barring transgender athletes from playing in scholastic sports with women and girls. At least 10 other states have similar laws or policies, the Miami Herald reported.
DeSantis’ proclamation insisted that “men should not be competing against women” such as Weyant, who he claims was robbed of her first-place finish.
“Florida 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,” the proclamation continues.
A message seeking comment from NCAA officials was not immediately returned Tuesday.