Trans swimmer Lia Thomas not recognised as race winner by Florida Governor

Lia Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle event, making her the first transgender athlete to claim the title.

Lia Thomas poses with teammates and coach after winning an NCAA race.
Image: Instagram: @UofPenn

University of Pennsylvania athlete, Lia Thomas, has not been recognised as the winner of a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 event by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The Transgender swimmer finished in first place, after completing the 500-yard freestyle race in four minutes 33.24 seconds last week in Atlanta. The landmark moment makes Thomas the first known Transgender athlete to win the event at the highest collegiate level in the US.

However, her participation in such competitions has sparked controversy, with the latest surrounding the aforementioned Republican politician, DeSantis, revoking her win. Following the race, DeSantis, a Donald Trump ally who is seen as a leading presidential contender for 2024, signed a proclamation that recognised runner-up Emma Weyant as the winner. Lia Thomas had beat Weyant by a margin of 1.75 seconds.



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Speaking on the event, DeSantis said: “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.

“They are putting ideology ahead of opportunity for women athletes and I think that there are just some people that are afraid to speak out and say what they are doing, but that is what they are doing.”

US Swimming updated its policies earlier this year to allow Transgender athletes to compete in elite events, provided that they meet certain criteria that aim to reduce unfair advantage. With these changes being made in February 2022, the NCAA decided not to implement them mid-season, meaning that Thomas could still participate in competitions regardless.

Aside from winning the 500-yard freestyle race, Thomas also swam in the 100-yard freestyle event, finishing in eighth place.

Governor DeSantis has also been an outspoken supporter of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill, saying “if you are out protesting this Bill you are by definition putting yourself in favour of injecting sexual instructions” into children.

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