WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) — Sarasota-native and Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant finished second in the 500-yard freestyle event at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships on Thursday.
But not in the eyes of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
At a news conference Tuesday in Wesley Chapel, Gov. DeSantis announced he would issue a proclamation declaring Weyant the “rightful winner” of the event.
“She earned that,” he said. “We need to honor that appropriately.”
Lia Thomas of University of Pennsylvania made history as the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship.
Thomas beat Weyant by 1.75 seconds in the 500-yard freestyle. It was Weyant’s fastest career time and the third-fastest time in UVA history, according to the university.
Thomas has been at the center of controversy since her transition in 2019, when she previously competed on the men’s swimming team. Thomas has followed the NCAA rules — which typically follow the rules issued by each sport’s governing body — since starting hormone replacement therapy.
Last month, USA Swimming changed its rules, requiring three consecutive years of monthly testosterone levels no higher than 5 nmol/L before a swimmer is eligible for competition, instead of one year of monthly testing at no higher than 10 nmol/L.
NCAA officials decided not to adopt that standard this season, stating that “implementing additional changes at this time could have unfair and potentially detrimental impacts on schools and student-athletes intending to compete in 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championships.
“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.”
Chelsea Wolfe, the first openly transgender American woman to make it to the Olympics, says it’s the governor who is wrong.
“My immediate thought and reaction to that is just pity at how pathetic it must be to deny the reality of the world around him to feel comfortable about life,” said Wolfe, who was an alternate on the U.S. women’s BMX freestyle team last year at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.
“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 Wolfe. “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.”
In November, the International Olympic Committee issued new guidelines for transgender athletes, removing its hormone level requirements in favor of a sport-specific approach.
“In issuing this Framework, the IOC recognizes that it must be in the remit of each sport and its governing body to determine how an athlete may be at a disproportionate advantage against their peers, taking into consideration the nature of each sport.”
Last year, DeSantis signed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act into law, banning transgender females from participating in girls’ and women’s sports. Athletes with a male designation on their birth certificate are not allowed to play in women’s sports in Florida from middle school all the way up to the college level, including intramural sports.
“We thought it was very important that girls and young women athletes in the state of Florida had the ability to work hard, to realize their dreams and to compete fairly,” he said on Tuesday. “Whether it’s in swimming, it’s in track and field, you name it.”