Florida governor Rob DeSantis yesterday issued a proclamation stripping transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of her victory in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) 500-yard freestyle event. (Yes…YARDS…we had to check that).
Mr DeSantis, an ally of former president Donald Trump, declared that second-placed Emma Weyant was the “rightful winner” of the championship decider, writing, “It is my determination that men should not be competing against women such as Emma Weyant, robbing women and girls of achievements, awards, and scholarships.”
In a tweet issued at the same time as his statement, the governor added, “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,” DeSantis said in his tweet alongside the statement.
“In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota’s Emma Weyant as the best women’s swimmer in the 500y freestyle.”
The status of trans women in women’s sport is not without controversy and balancing the rights of those who have transitioned while ensuring a level playing field for all women is the subject of much debate. Many governing bodies insist that, in order to compete, trans women must suppress the amount of testosterone is their system to a certain level (usually 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to and during competition. Those advocating for stricter rules claim that the very fact that somebody has gone through male puberty, together with other male physiological traits such as number of red blood cells, heart size and muscle mass, confers an unfair advantage irrespective of testosterone reduction.
World Athletics president Lord Coe recently told the Daily Telegraph, “I think that the integrity of women’s sport – if we don’t get this right – and actually the future of women’s sport, is very fragile.
“If you look at the nature of 12- or 13-year-old girls, I remember my daughters would regularly outrun male counterparts in their class, but as soon as puberty kicks in that gap opens and it remains.
“Gender cannot trump biology. As a federation president, I do not have that luxury. It is a luxury that other organisations not at the practical end of having to deal with these issues have. But as far as I am concerned, the scientific evidence, the peer-reviewed work we have done, those regulations are the right approach.”
Florida is one of 12 Republican-controlled US states to have banned transgender girls from taking part in girls’ school sports and is on the brink of passing the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which outlaws discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation in junior schools.
It is unclear whether Mr DeSantis’s proclamation will be reflected in the official record.