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Who is Lia Thomas, the banned American transgender swimming champion?

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Lia Thomas. Photo/CNN
  • Lia Thomas, is a name forever intertwined with the ongoing debate on transgender athletes in sports
  • She is a fascinating figure in the world of swimming
  • Thomas has inspired many people with a pioneering mentality

Lia Thomas, is a name forever intertwined with the ongoing debate on transgender athletes in sports.  She is a fascinating figure in the world of swimming as she exudes determination and unbridled charisma.

Thomas has inspired many people with a pioneering mentality that pushes boundaries and redefines standards. Through her incredible athleticism and unflinching fearlessness, she captivates audiences and encourages talks about diversity and fairness.  Beyond the pools, she has a narrative that the world cannot ignore. That of unconditional equality and harmony.


Lia Thomas is an American swimmer who rose to prominence in 2022. Born in 1999, she began her swimming journey at a young age, honing her skills at Westlake High School in Texas. In 2017, she joined the University of Pennsylvania’s swim team, embarking on a collegiate career marked by both triumphs and fierce controversy.

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American Swimmer and NCAA champion Lia Thomas. Photo/CNN

Thomas’ passion for swimming blossomed at the age of five. She dedicated herself to rigorous training, establishing a strong competitive presence. Throughout her high school years, she competed in the boys’ category, achieving a commendable sixth-place finish at the state championships.

Entering the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas continued her swimming career. However, her journey took a significant turn during her freshman year in 2018. She embracing her gender identity and took a huge step forward. She underwent a hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in accordance with NCAA guidelines marking the start of a new chapter, both personally and athletically. It was a part of her gender transition.

This therapy involves an administrative dose of estrogen, a hormone that promotes the development of female features and suppresses testosterone production. She also received a dose of anti-androgens which suppresses testosterone levels and its effects on the body.


Despite facing challenges related to her transition, Lia Thomas persevered and pushed through for the love of the sport. In March 2022, she made history by becoming the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I national championship title. Her victory in the women’s 500-yard freestyle event propelled her into the national spotlight. It sparked a complex and heated debate pitting transgender athletes against global sporting bodies.


While some celebrated her achievement as a significant milestone for transgender inclusion in sports, others voiced concerns about her potential competitive advantages. Dissenting voices have centred their arguments on the potential for residual biological factors associated with her assigned s3x at birth. They argue that it gives Lia Thomas an unfair edge in women’s competitions.

Following her victory, several states enacted policies restricting transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports at the high school and collegiate levels. Additionally, the international swimming federation, FINA, implemented new regulations in June 2022.

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Lia Thomas. Photo/ABC News

These regulations require transgender women to have transitioned by the age of 12 and to maintain lowered testosterone levels for at least four years before being eligible to compete in the women’s category. In light of these developments, Thomas was effectively barred from competing in elite women’s competitions at the international level, including the Olympics.

The 25-year-old American swimmer is pursuing legal action in an attempt to return to elite female competition, including the Olympics. She is suing World Aquatics following new regulations in 2022 barring anyone who has experienced “any part of male puberty” from competing in the female division. She has not resumed swimming since then.

World Aquatics stated in a scientific policy statement that it used to make its decision that even after taking medicine to lower their testosterone levels, swimmers like Thomas continued to benefit physically from going through male puberty. These advantages included endurance, power, speed, strength, and lung size.

Prior to transitioning in 2018, Lia Thomas was a swimmer in the men’s division. She has since enlisted Tyr, a Canadian legal firm, to represent her in the case before the Swiss Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). However, the matter will not likely be heard before the Olympics in Paris, even though, the 25-year-old is currently unregistered with US Swimming.

The Daily Telegraph first reported on the decision. It represents the most recent development in the contentious issue between proponents of the inclusion of transgender athletes and others who contend that safety and justice in women’s sports should come first.

Thomas has consistently denied using his transition to advance. She often says that it is a misconception that her transition was only for her to gain an advantage over other competitors given her biological constitution.

“The biggest misconception, I think, is the reason I transitioned. People will say: ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage, so she could win.’ I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself,” she remarked in 2022.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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