Trans swimmer Lia Thomas petitions World Aquatics to allow men to swim on women's Olympic teams

"World Aquatics remains confident that its gender inclusion policy represents a fair approach and remains absolutely determined to protect women’s sport."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

Trans-identified male swimmer Lia Thomas has been revealed to have undertaken a legal challenge against World Aquatic’s rules barring biological males from competing in women’s competition if they underwent a sex change after the age of 12. 

According to The Telegraph, Thomas has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland to overturn World Aquatic’s rules on transgender athletes. 

Thomas has reportedly hired Canadian law firm Tyr, which describes itself as "fearless advocates" that have been involved in "high-stakes and precedent-setting cases."

Thomas first went to court in September, and since then World Aquatics has applied to have the case thrown out, arguing that Thomas is not currently impacted by the rules, as the swimmer has not submitted to the jurisdiction of USA Swimming. 

The swimmer has expressed intent to compete in the Olympics, stating after the NCAA win in 2022, "It’s been a goal of mine to swim at Olympic trials for a very long time, and I would love to see that through."

Thomas has not competed since the NCAA championships in which the biological male beat out females for top spots in the competition, including a first-place win in the 500-yard freestyle event.  

The Telegraph reports that Thomas’ case, which will be heard behind closed doors, will likely not be heard in time to qualify for the 2024 summer Olympics in Paris. The next summer games take place in 2028 in Los Angeles. 

Thomas’s lawyer, Carlos Sayao, a former swimmer as well, said World Aquatic’s rules were a "trans ban," adding that it was "discriminatory" and caused "profound harm to trans women."

“Trans women are particularly vulnerable in society and they suffer from higher rates of violence, abuse and harassment than cis women,” he added. 

“Lia has now had the door closed to her in terms of her future ability to practise her sport and compete at the highest level."

“She’s bringing the case for herself and other trans women to ensure that any rules for trans women’s participation in sport are fair, proportionate and grounded in human rights and in science.”

World Aquatics executive director Brent Nowicki said, "The World Aquatics policy on gender inclusion, adopted by World Aquatics in June of 2022, was rigorously developed on the basis of advice from leading medical and legal experts, and in careful consultation with athletes. World Aquatics remains confident that its gender inclusion policy represents a fair approach and remains absolutely determined to protect women’s sport.”

The policy states that males seeking to compete in the women’s division had "male puberty suppressed beginning at Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later, and they have since continuously maintained their testosterone levels in serum (or plasma) below 2.5 nmol/L." 

Thomas did not start transitioning until 2019.

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