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Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed a proclamation snubbing transgender athlete Lia Thomas after her 500-yard freestyle victory at last week’s NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships. Thomas’ success was widely disputed, and runner-up Emma Weyant has now been recognised as the winner.
Representing the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas became the first known transgender athlete to win the title in Atalanta, recording a time of four minutes 33.24 seconds. Florida’s Weyant finished 1.75secs behind.
In February, US swimming amended its policy to allow transgender athletes to compete on the elite stage. And the National Collegiate Athletic Association have argued it would be immoral to change the rules midway through the season.
Thomas was a member of Pennsylvania’s men’s swimming team for three seasons before starting hormone replacement therapy in 2019. And Florida governor DeSantis has criticised the NCAA’s decision to enter Thomas.
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He 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 as 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.”
World Athletics president Lord Sebastian Coe has warned sporting organisations that the ‘integrity’ of women’s sport is at risk if they don’t get perfect regulations for transgender athletes. “There is no question to me that testosterone is the key determinant in performance,” Coe told The Times.
“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. You can’t be oblivious to public sentiment; of course not. But science is important.
“If I wasn’t satisfied with the science that we have and the experts that we have used and the in-house teams that have been working on this for a long time if I wasn’t comfortable about that, this would be a very different landscape.”
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