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DeSantis: NCAA 'perpetuates frauds' by naming transgender swimmer Lia Thomas champion

Sarasota native Emma Weyant came in second place to University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Lia Thomas during the 500-meter freestyle final.

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke Tuesday about the recent historic NCAA swimming championship in which a swimmer became the first known transgender woman to win the competition. 

The governor is looking to proclaim his own winner of the swimming competition — a Tampa Bay-area native who came in second place, Emma Weyant.

"Now the NCAA is basically taking efforts to destroy women’s athletics," DeSantis said during a news conference in Wesley Chapel. "They’re trying to undermine the integrity of the competition, and they’re crowning somebody else the woman’s champion." 

He was talking about University of Pennsylvania transgender athlete Lia Thomas' win last week in the 500-meter freestyle final.

According to sister-station 11Alive, Thomas spent three seasons competing on the UPenn men's swimming team before beginning her transition in 2019. She completed 34 months of hormone replacement therapy, surpassing the NCAA's 12-month requirement. 

In January, the NCAA updated its transgender participation policy that outlines athletes' eligibility to compete in sports. 

DeSantis mentioned how "important" Florida's "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" was, which he signed into law last year on the first day of LGBT Pride Month. The act bans transgender athletes from competing in school sports. 

"We thought it was very important that young girls and women athletes in the state of Florida had the ability to work hard, to realize their dreams and to compete fairly whether it’s in swimming, whether it’s in track and field, you name it," DeSantis said. 

"And that’s something that was really meaningful to a lot of people in Florida, particularly people like me who are parents of young girls." 

DeSantis says he found it unfair that Thomas won the NCAA competition, which meant Florida native and Olympic medalist Weyant came in second place. 

"If you look at what the NCAA has done, by allowing basically men to compete in women’s athletics – in this case the swimming – you had the No. 1 woman who finished was from Sarasota. Emma Weyant. She won the silver medal. She’s been an absolute superstar for her whole career," he said. 

Thomas is a transgender woman who was assigned male at birth. Earlier this month, she told Sports Illustrated that "I'm a woman, just like anybody else on the team."

DeSantis says the state is going to "speak out" against the NCAA's decision and the race results by issuing a proclamation saying Emma is the "best female swimmer in the 500-meter freestyle." DeSantis said he is doing this because "she earned it."

"So we’ll be issuing that proclamation just because, you know, as somebody who was such a great athlete in Florida has now moved on to the University of Virginia – we need to honor that appropriately. And if the NCAA was willing to actually ensure the integrity of women’s competition, she would have been crowned national champion."

Desantis also said the NCAA is "putting ideology" ahead of opportunities for women athletes. 

"We need to stop allowing organizations like the NCAA to perpetrate frauds on the public. And that’s exactly what they’re doing," he said.

RELATED: Transgender swimmer competing in NCAA finals makes history in Atlanta

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