DeSantis Recognizes Female NCAA Athlete, Not Lia Thomas, as Top Women's Swimmer

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R.) / Getty Images
March 22, 2022

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) in an official state declaration on Tuesday recognized Sarasota native Emma Weyant, not trans swimmer Lia Thomas, as the winner of the NCAA women's 500-yard freestyle.

"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 said on Twitter when he announced Weyant's win. "In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota's Emma Weyant as the best women's swimmer in the 500y freestyle."

Last week, Weyant placed second in the freestyle event at the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships. She finished just a hair behind Lia Thomas, the controversial University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer who competed as a male until this season and placed in multiple men's events at the 2019 Ivy League Championships.

The NCAA allows any male-to-female transgender athletes to compete in women's sports. But studies have shown such transgender athletes retain advantages over their competitors. A 2020 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that transgender women remain both stronger and faster than their peers after one year of hormone therapy. Thomas began therapy in 2019 but still has male body parts.

In June 2021, DeSantis signed the Fairness in Women's Sports Act into law, protecting female athletes from having to compete against transgender peers. In a letter sent out by his office announcing Weyant's victory, he wrote "men should not be competing against women such as Emma Weyant, robbing women and girls of achievements, awards, and scholarships."

Weyant competed in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, winning a silver medal in the women's 400-meter individual medley. She is currently a freshman at the University of Virginia.