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Lia Thomas launches legal case against trans swimming ban

Lia Thomas
Lia Thomas (Image: YouTube/ESPN)

The trans swimmer, Lia Thomas, has launched a case to fight against a trans ban in swimming.

The rules allowing trans athletes to compete were changed in 2022 by World Aquatics (then FINA) which was seen by many as “discriminatory.” The rule change meant Thomas, who earlier in 2022 became the first transgender woman in history to win the United States’ highest national college swimming title, could not compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

As per the BBC on Saturday (27 January), Thomas has taken her case against the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland. CAS has now clarified that arbitration began last September but was being made public now after everyone involved agreed it could be made public. A date for a legal hearing has yet to be set.

CAS, again as per the BBC, has said in response to the legal bid: “Ms Thomas accepts that fair competition is a legitimate sporting objective and that some regulation of transgender women in swimming is appropriate. However, Ms Thomas submits that the Challenged Provisions are invalid and unlawful as they discriminate against her.”

While Thomas herself has not commented publicly on the claim Brent Nowicki, the executive director of World Aquatics, said in a statement to the BBC that the organisation’s policy “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.”

As of the 2022 rule change, trans women athletes have to have transitioned by the age of 12 to compete in women’s competitions. They must also maintain testosterone levels beneath 2.5 nmol/L.

World Aquatics also proposed a new ‘open’ category for trans athletes. However, it was scrapped at the Swimming World Cup in October after no one signed up for it.

The rule change drew fierce criticism from advocates of inclusive sport, including Team GB’s Tom Daley who said he was “furious.” He continued: “You know, like most queer people, anyone that’s told that they can’t compete or can’t do something they love just because of who they are, it’s not on.”

Swimming is not the only sport to have introduced new rules that limit the participation of trans athletes. Athletics, cricket, badminton, and cycling are among those that have. Each time organisations argue that the reasoning is to protect fairness in sport.

Last April, 40 pro athletes signed a letter opposing the ban of trans women and girls from women’s sports.

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