Skip to main content

Home News News World

Florida’s Republican Governor refuses to recognise trans swimmer Lia Thomas as race winner

Lia Thomas' involvement "undermined the integrity of the competition," according to Governor Ron DeSantis.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Penn Athletics and Wiki

Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis says he won’t recognise trans swimmer Lia Thomas as the winner of a recent race.

Thomas, who swims for the University of Pennsylvania, won the women’s 500-yard freestyle event at a competition in Atlanta, Georgia last week. She beat runner-up Emma Weyant, from Florida, by 1.75 seconds.

In doing so became the first transgender woman in history to win the United States’ highest national college swimming title, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) However, DeSantis, chose not to recognise this at all. 

“The NCAA is basically taking efforts to destroy women’s athletics”

In a proclamation following the race, DeSantis, a Republican who supports the recently passed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, instead chose to recognise Weyant as the winner.

DeSantis said Thomas’ victory “undermined the integrity of the competition,” and criticised the NCAA for allowing her to compete.

“The NCAA is basically taking efforts to destroy women’s athletics, they’re trying to undermine the integrity of the competition and they’re crowning somebody else the women’s champion and we think that’s wrong,” he continued.

He added that the NCAA was “putting ideology ahead of opportunity for women athletes”.

In February, US swimming allowed trans athletes to swim in elite events. According to the BBC, the NCAA allowed Thomas to compete as the rules had changed mid-season. 

Lia Thomas’ involvement in swimming is the latest flashpoint in the subject of trans athletes. It follows a fierce and often horrid debate around Laurel Hubbard’s involvement in the Women’s weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

The US has also seen a number of states implement anti-trans legislation barring trans students from competing on school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. 

Attitude’s new-look March/April issue is out now.