Florida governor rejects Lia Thomas swim victory and hands win to runner-up

23 March 2022, 10:05 | Updated: 23 March 2022, 14:26

DeSantis has rejected Lia Thomas's recent high-profile win at a swimming event
DeSantis has rejected Lia Thomas's recent high-profile win at a swimming event. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Will Taylor

Florida's governor has declared the transgender winner of a women's college swimming race made a 'mockery' of the competition and declared the runner-up as winner.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Ron DeSantis issued a proclamation that said Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Emma Weyant won a 500-yard freestyle instead of Lia Thomas, who finished in first by nearly two seconds.

The race caused controversy as some in sport said Ms Thomas should not have been allowed to compete, saying she had an advantage.

She was born a man and used to swim in male teams before undergoing hormone therapy in 2019.

Read more: Female swimmers stage podium protest after being beaten by transgender Lia Thomas

Read more: 'Trans athlete stole my spot in final': Swimmer who lost out to Lia Thomas breaks silence

Governor DeSantis, speaking about the National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] Division I title race at Georgia Tech, said Ms Weyant, a silver medallist at the Tokyo Olympics, was the winner.

He said: "She had the fastest time of any woman in college athletics.

"Now 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 tweeted: "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.

"In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota's Emma Weyant as the best women's swimmer in the 500y freestyle."

Reuters said the NCAA did not immediately provide a response.

Ms Weyant, who competes for the University of Virginia, took silver in the 400m individual medley at Tokyo last year.

In Thursday's race, she finished 1.75 seconds behind the University of Pennsylvania's Ms Thomas, while Erica Sullivan, who bagged silver in the Tokyo 1500m freestyle, came third.

An image of Ms Weyant and Ms Sullivan taking a photo with another swimmer, Brooke Forde, showed the three posing together, separately from Ms Thomas, on the podium.

Ms Sullivan later denied that was a protest and insisted it had been taken "out of context", according to reports.

Ms Thomas' win sparked protests at Georgia Tech, in Atlanta.

Ms Thomas told ESPN: "I try to ignore it as much as I can, I try to focus on my swimming what I need to do to get ready for my races and I just try to block out everything else."

US swimming organisers allowed transgender competitors to take part in elite events earlier this year.