Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas takes World Aquatics’ ban to CAS, Latest Swimming News - The New Paper

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas takes World Aquatics’ ban to CAS

LAUSANNE – American swimmer Lia Thomas, who became the first transgender athlete to win a US national college title, is taking legal action in a bid to be allowed to compete again in elite female competition, including the upcoming Paris Olympics.

The 25-year-old has not swum since World Aquatics introduced new rules in 2022, which prohibit anyone who has undergone any part of male puberty from competing in the female category.

On Jan 26, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirmed “the registration of the request for arbitration filed by US transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, aimed at challenging certain parts of World Aquatics’ policy on the eligibility for the men’s and women’s competition categories”.

“Ms Thomas accepts that fair competition is a legitimate sporting objective and that some regulation of transgender women in swimming is appropriate,” the statement read.

“However, Ms Thomas submits that the challenged provisions are invalid and unlawful as they discriminate against her contrary to the Olympic Charter, the World Aquatics Constitution, and Swiss law.”

In her submission to CAS, Thomas said: “Such discrimination cannot be justified as necessary, reasonable, or proportionate to achieve a legitimate sporting objective.”

The court also said that Thomas was seeking “an order from the CAS declaring that the challenged provisions are unlawful, invalid, and of no force and effect”.

It said proceedings had begun in September 2023, but had been “subject to strict confidentiality rules”, and that “at this point, no hearing date has been fixed yet”.

Two years ago, governing body World Aquatics voted to stop transgender female athletes from competing in women’s elite races.

In February 2022, USA Swimming revised its rules, limiting testosterone levels for at least 36 months for transgender athletes before competing at the elite level.

The change was prompted by the controversy over Thomas’ showing in the university championship.

Born male and having begun transition in 2019, Thomas was adjudged by detractors to be physiologically advantaged. Barely a month later, the University of Pennsylvania swimmer won the women’s 500-yard freestyle final.

It was a historic victory, made possible by the refusal of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association), which governs college sports, to apply the new US federation rules.

In June 2022, World Aquatics announced that it wanted to create an open category for transgender athletes. It limited entry to its women’s categories to swimmers who “became women before puberty”.

Other sports’ governing bodies, such as cycling and athletics, have also banned transgender athletes from elite female competition over the past two years. – AFP, REUTERS