Florida Gov. Calls 2nd Place Swimmer ‘Rightful Winner' Over Transgender Athlete

Lia Thomas, who swims for the University of Pennsylvania, came out as transgender and has been transitioning since 2019

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is diving into the latest debate over transgender athletes, proclaiming the second place finisher at a recent NCAA event the 'rightful winner' over the transgender athlete who won the event.

NBC affiliate WFLA-TV reports DeSantis, during an event Tuesday in Wesley Chapel, said he would issue a proclamation declaring Sarasota native Emma Weyant the winner of the 500-yard freestyle event that took place last Thursday.

Weyant, who won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics and swims for the University of Virginia, finished second behind Lia Thomas.

“She (Weyant) earned that,” he said. “We need to honor that appropriately.”

Thomas, who swims for the University of Pennsylvania, came out as transgender and has been transitioning since 2019. She made history as the first transgender athlete to win a NCAA Division 1 championship when she beat Weyant by 1.75 seconds.

Thomas has followed the NCAA rules since starting hormone replacement therapy. The governing body of college sports did not adopt USA Swimming's recent change requiring three consecutive years of monthly testosterone levels no higher than 5 nmol/L before a swimmer is eligible for competition, instead of the previous rule of one year of monthly testing at no higher than 10 nmol/L.

“The NCAA is basically takings efforts to destroy women’s athletics,” DeSantis said. “They’re trying to undermine the integrity of the competition. They’re crowning somebody else the women’s champion, and we think that’s wrong.”

Last year, DeSantis signed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act into law, banning transgender females from participating in girls’ and women’s sports.

“It’s ironic that [DeSantis] would say that ideology is being used to deprive women of opportunities because that is exactly what he is attempting to do,” said Chelsea Wolfe, the first openly transgender American woman to make it to the Olympics. “It is his ideology and his belief that he is trying to force on other people, and especially the youth of the state of Florida: that trans people are not truly the genders which we identify as. We are just as much our genders as anyone else.”

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