Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Launches Legal Battle Against World Aquatics to Overturn Discriminatory Ban

(Associated Press) – Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer, has launched a legal battle against World Aquatics to challenge the organization’s ban on most trans women competing in high-level swimming events. Thomas, represented by lawyer Carlos Sayao, is seeking a reversal of the new rules, issued by World Aquatics in June 2022, which prohibit trans women from participating in women’s swimming events if they transitioned after the age of 12.

Thomas’ legal challenge was initially reported by The Telegraph, shedding light on her behind-the-scenes efforts to challenge the ban. The details of the case were kept confidential until now due to the standard privacy protocol of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where the case is being heard.

The new rules effectively prevent trans women from competing in women’s swimming events at the Olympics. This regulation came after Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania student at the time, made history as the first openly transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship. In an interview with ABC News’ “Good Morning America” in May 2022, Thomas expressed her lifelong ambition to compete in the Olympics.

Thomas garnered attention and became a central figure in the global debate surrounding the participation of trans women in women’s sports. The controversy surrounding her NCAA win drew criticism from conservative media outlets, fueling the ongoing discussion on the topic.

Sayao, Thomas’ lawyer, expressed his view that the rules imposed by World Aquatics are discriminatory and cause significant harm to trans women. In explaining his stance, Sayao emphasized the vulnerabilities and higher rates of violence, abuse, and harassment that trans women face in society compared to cis women.

World Aquatics and the Court of Arbitration for Sport have not yet commented on the legal challenge launched by Thomas. However, the court confirmed the existence of the case and its agreement to make general information about the procedure public.

The statement from the Court of Arbitration for Sport highlights that Thomas acknowledges the importance of fair competition and recognizes the need for some regulations regarding transgender women in swimming. However, she argues that the specific provisions imposed by World Aquatics are invalid and discriminatory under various laws and charters, including the Olympic Charter, the World Aquatics Constitution, and Swiss law.

The timing of the hearing for Thomas’ legal challenge has not been determined at this stage. The case bears significance in the ongoing dialogue surrounding transgender inclusion in sports and the extent to which regulations should be implemented to ensure fair competition while respecting the rights of trans athletes.