South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is set to introduce new legislation that aims to limit the participation of transgender athletes in female sports as the debate over the hot-button issue heats up. 

A draft of the bill titled ‘An Act to protect fairness in women’s sports’ was shared by Noem’s office Tuesday afternoon. 

The drafted legislation is planned to be introduced as fury mounts over University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, who broke records during a collegiate swim meet this month while competing on the women’s team. 

The bill would restrict students in collegiate and K-12 sports from joining sports teams that align with their ‘biological sex at birth,’ which is defined as ‘the sex listed on the athlete’s official birth certificate,’ according to a draft of the bill. 

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem announced on Tuesday that she plans to introduce ‘An Act to protect fairness in women’s sports’ which would restrict students in collegiate and K-12 sports to join sports teams which align with their ‘biological sex at birth’ 

The Republican governor faced harsh criticism from conservatives earlier this year when she vetoed a bill which would have made transgender women and girl’s participation in school sports illegal. Noem feared the bill would not withstand the legal challenges she was expecting (Pictured: Gov. Kristi Noem, right, questioned by Tucker Carlson, left, after she vetoed  HB1217)

‘Only female athletes, based on their biological sex, may participate in any team, sport, or athletic event designated as being for females, women, or girls,’ the bill reads.  

‘This is about fairness,’ Noem said in a statement. ‘Every young woman deserves an equal playing field where she can achieve success, but common sense tells us that males have an unfair physical advantage over females in athletic competition. It is for those reasons that only girls should be competing in girls’ sports.’ 

‘Women have fought long and hard for equal athletic opportunities, and South Dakota will defend them, but we have to do it in a smart way,’ she said.   

Transgender UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas became the center of the national debate on transgender athletes

Noem’s bill comes after the House failed to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 1217, which would have made trans women and girls’ participation in school sports illegal.

The Republican governor was hit with harsh criticism earlier this year when she vetoed the bill, explaining that she feared the bill would not withstand legal challenges and announcing she had plans for a more comprehensive bill.

‘This legislation does not have the problematic provisions that were included in last year’s House Bill 1217,’ Noem said. 

‘Those flawed provisions would have led to litigation for our state, as well as for the families of young South Dakota athletes – male and female alike.’

In an attempt to strengthen the bill against litigation, Noem’s draft proposal excludes the HB1217 requirement that athletes provide a written statement verifying they haven’t taken any performance-enhancing drugs. It also cut an ‘onerous paperwork requirement’ for parents to report on their child’s gender.

‘Given HB 1217’s problematic provisions, there was a higher risk of the entire bill being enjoined if South Dakota were to be sued by the NCAA. If that had happened, no girls in South Dakota would have been protected (at K-12 or collegiate level),’ Noem’s spokesman Ian Fury said in a statement to Fox News. 

‘Now that other states have linked arms, as Governor Noem urged at the time, she is excited to protect girls’ sports at both the K-12 and collegiate level, just as she’s done with her executive orders.’ 

After Noem vetoed HB1217 earlier this year, she signed two executive orders aimed at preventing transgender girls from taking part in school and college sports in the state. 

The executive orders cited Title IX which was established to create opportunities and benefits for women in sports that equal those of men. It also points to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides for equal protection under the law for all citizens. 

The executive orders stated that current policies, such as the NCAA regulations for transgender athletes, ‘threaten to diminish opportunities for women.’ 

The NCAA regulations have increasingly come under fire after Thomas’s success in the pool.  

The Ivy League athlete competed on the UPenn men’s swim team for three years before transitioning and switching to the women’s team this season.  

Thomas praised the fairness of the IOC guidelines and NCAA regulations which allowed her to move to the women’s team after one year of hormone treatments. 

Thomas gave an interview with SwimSwam discussing her opinion of the fairness of the inclusive IOC guidelines allowing transgender athletes to compete in their preferred category as she discusses her muscle and strength loss after nearly shattering a world record 

Video from the Zippy Invitational on December 5, showed Thomas, 22, beating out her nearest opponents, and consistently staying ahead of them at the women’s 1,650 yard freestyle

‘I think the guidelines they set forward are very good and do a very good job of promoting inclusivity while keeping competitional integrity going,’ she said. 

‘Each sport basically has to come up with eligibility criteria for what constitutes an unfair advantage in that sport,’ she explained of the IOC’s transgender athlete guidelines.

How Lia Thomas’ times stack up against her bests as a male swimmer at UPenn and NCAA women’s records

1650m free


The current NCAA women’s records for those events are currently held by Olympic gold medalists. Missy Franklin holds the record for the 200 Free at 1:39:10. Katie Ledecky set the records for the 500 Free at 4:24:06 and the 1,650 Free at 15:03:31.  

Thomas said her pre-transition times are not an accurate gage for her ‘current ability’ but admitted that she did not train as often or as hard in her year off as she did when competing on the men’s team. 

‘Everybody is able to compete in the category they’re most comfortable with unless there’s a proven unfair advantage that they have.’

In a reversal of the IOC’s previous stance, the new guidelines, set to be rolled out after the Beijing Winter Olympics this year, say that there should be no presumption that trans women have an automatic advantage over other women.

But not everyone agrees that the regulations prove to be fair. One of the female swimmers who competed against Thomas told of the intimidation and discouragement she felt racing the transgender athlete. 

‘Swimming against Lia Thomas was intimidating,’ the senior from Niagara University said. ‘It was hard going into a race knowing there was no way I was going to get first.’

‘I knew I could drop my time but I also knew there was no way I would physically be able to beat her in the race or even catch up to her,’ the collegiate athlete said. 

‘It’s hard working your whole life at a sport and going to big competitions and seeing someone who is more physically talented than you, however it is even more discouraging to have them right next to you and knowing you won’t ever be on the same physical level as them.’ 

‘Swimming against Lia…I knew deep down it was going to be impossible for me to swim as fast as her,’ the discouraged athlete admitted. 

‘At the end of the day I respect her decision to complete and I do feel that people are going to have a bad reaction to her life choices which isn’t fair on her. But from an athletic standpoint I do see why a lot of athletes are going to be upset,’ she said. 

Two of Thomas’ female teammates have also spoken out anonymously about their frustration with having a transgender teammate despite having been ‘strongly advised’ not to speak to the media. 

The first anonymous female UPenn swimmer to speak gave an explosive interview to sports website OutKick expressing her fury and frustration, and how she and most of her female teammates are upset because their coach, Mike Schnur, is allowing a transgender athlete to take a woman’s spot because he ‘just really likes winning.’ 

The female UPenn swimmer noted that while Thomas is already breaking records that aren’t achievable for female swimmers, she said if Lia ‘gets back down to Will Thomas’ best times, those numbers are female world records.’

‘Faster than all the times Katie Ledecky went in college. Faster than any other Olympian you can think of. His times in three events are [female] world records.’

Two of Thomas’ teammates from the UPenn swim team have anonymously spoken out about their frustration with having a transgender teammate. One of Thomas’ competitors from the  Zippy Invitational has also anonymously expressed her discouragement 

The second anonymous female UPenn swimmer said the university’s swimmers were upset and crying as they knew their times were going to be obliterated by Thomas.

‘They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in it, they’re going to lose. Usually, they can get behind the blocks and know they out-trained all their competitors and they’re going to win and give it all they’ve got,’ the source said to Outkick.

‘Now they’re having to go behind the blocks knowing no matter what, they do not have the chance to win. I think that it’s really getting to everyone.

‘Usually everyone claps, everyone is yelling and cheering when someone wins a race. Lia touched the wall and it was just silent in there. When fellow Penn swimmer Anna Kalandadze finished second, the crowd erupted in applause.’