Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas can’t compete in Olympics after losing legal fight against sport’s governing body | US News

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Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas can’t compete in the Olympics after she lost her legal battle to have the rules barring her participation overturned.

The 25-year-old rose to prominence after she won the women’s NCAA college swimming title back in March 2022 – the US’ highest college title.

However, during the summer of that year swimming’s governing body, World Aquatics (WA), introduced rule changes that would bar anyone who has undergone “any part of male puberty” from competing in the female category.

Thomas previously swam for Pennsylvania’s men’s team for three seasons before starting hormone replacement therapy in early 2019 – so was affected by the rule change.

In response to the ruling, she launched a legal challenge, asking the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to overturn the rules because they were, she argued, invalid, unlawful and discriminatory.

However, her case was thrown out on a technicality because Thomas was “simply not entitled to engage with eligibility to compete in WA competitions such as the Olympics or world championships” as she was no longer a member of US swimming.

The decision ends any remaining hopes Thomas had of competing in the Olympics.

The three-judge panel added: “The panel concludes that she lacks standing to challenge the policy and the operational requirements in the framework of the present proceeding.”

Ms Thomas won the highest US college title in 2022 before the rule change. Pic: AP
Thomas won the highest US college title in 2022 before the rule change. Pic: AP

Lia Thomas in January 2022. Pic: AP
Lia Thomas in January 2022. Pic: AP

World Aquatics said it welcomed the CAS decision and said: “We believe is a major step forward in our efforts to protect women’s sport.”

USA swimming had previously granted her request for “self-identity verification” as part of its policy on athlete inclusion.

But the judges said USA Swimming had no authority to “modify such scope of application” of the world governing body’s rules.

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Thomas was represented at CAS by Toronto-based Tyr, the legal firm that has represented two-time Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya.

Semenya is excluded from running in her specialist 800 metre event by World Athletics rules on athletes with differences in sex development who have elevated levels of testosterone.

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Swimming’s policy on transgender athletes was followed by other top-tier Olympic sports who also excluded from women’s events people who have potentially gained lasting physical advantages from going through male puberty.

The CAS judges declined World Aquatics request for Thomas to pay its legal costs and other expenses incurred in the case.

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