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Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas loses case, barred from elite women’s races

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Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer, lost a case against the World Aquatics at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Wednesday, June 12. Thomas was barred from competing in the women’s events, and the ruling maintains that ban.

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Thomas had requested arbitration with World Aquatics, the governing body of all aquatic sports, to get the federation’s transgender policy dismissed. However, the court ruled that Thomas did not have standing to challenge the policy.

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The policy states that a transgender woman, which is a person who was born a biological male and has undergone hormone therapy or surgery to appear as a woman, may not compete in aquatics competitions if they underwent male puberty.

Transgender women are allowed to compete under the policy if their male puberty was suppressed before age 12 and they have continuously suppressed their testosterone levels.

World Aquatics did create an “open” category for “all sex and gender identities,” allowing transgender athletes to compete in the 50-meter and 100-meter races across all strokes. However, World Aquatics has canceled competition in this category as recently as last year after no one entered the first event of the 2023 Swimming World Cup in Berlin.

Thomas called the policy discriminatory and unlawful and took World Aquatics to court. The CAS three-person panel ruled that Thomas is “not a member of USA Swimming at the moment” and hasn’t been one since 2022. The panel also said that Thomas did not perform in any “elite event” for World Aquatics to qualify for any international competition — including the 2024 Olympics that are set for Paris in July — meaning the policy doesn’t apply to Thomas.

World Aquatics stated that the decision is a “major step forward in our efforts to protect women’s sport.”

“Our policies and practices are continuously evaluated to ensure they align with these core values, which led to the introduction of our open category,” World Aquatics said.

Thomas responded to the ruling through lawyers in a statement.

“The CAS decision is deeply disappointing,” the statement read. “Blanket bans preventing trans women from competing are discriminatory and deprive us of valuable athletic opportunities that are central to our identities. The CAS decision should be seen as a call to action to all trans women athletes to continue to fight for our dignity and human rights.”

World Aquatics has said that it remains committed to inclusivity.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

TRANSGENDER SWIMMER -LIA THOMAS- JUST LOST A BATTLE WITH THE COURT OF ARBITRATION FOR SPORT – ALSO KNOWN AS “CAS”.

THOMAS HAD REQUESTED ARBITRATION WITH WORLD AQUATICS – THE GOVERNING BODY FOR ALL AQUATIC SPORTS – TO GET THE GOVERNING BODY’S TRANSGENDER POLICY DISMISSED. BUT THE COURT RULED THOMAS DIDN’T HAVE STANDING.

THE POLICY STATES THAT A TRANSGENDER WOMAN – WHICH IS A PERSON WHO WAS BORN A BIOLOGICAL MALE AND HAS UNDERGONE HORMONE THERAPY OR SURGERY TO APPEAR AS A WOMAN – MAY NOT COMPETE IN AQUATICS COMPETITIONS IF THEY UNDERWENT MALE PUBERTY.

TRANSGENDER WOMEN ARE ALLOWED TO COMPETE UNDER THE POLICY IF THEIR MALE PUBERTY WAS SUPPRESSED BEFORE AGE 12 AND HAVE CONTINUOUSLY SUPPRESSED THEIR TESTOSTERONE LEVELS

WORLD AQUATICS CREATED AN “OPEN CATEGORY” – FOR “ALL SEX AND GENDER IDENTITIES” – ALLOWING TRANSGENDER ATHLETES TO COMPETE IN 50 METER AND 100 METER RACES ACROSS ALL STROKES.

BUT WORLD AQUATICS HAS CANCELED COMPETITION IN THIS CATEGORY AS RECENTLY AS LAST YEAR AFTER NO ONE ENTERED.

THOMAS CALLED THE POLICY DISCRIMINATORY AND UNLAWFUL – AND WORLD AQUATICS TO COURT.

THE CAS 3-PERSON PANEL RULED – THOMAS IS “NOT A MEMBER OF USA SWIMMING AT THE MOMENT” AND HASN’T BEEN ONE SINCE 2022 – AND DID NOT PERFORM IN ANY “ELITE EVENT” FOR WORLD AQUATICS TO QUALIFY FOR ANY INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION – INCLUDING THE 2024 OLYMPICS SET FOR PARIS NEXT MONTH – SO THE POLICY DOES NOT APPLY TO THOMAS.

WORLD AQUATICS SAID THE DECISION IS “A MAJOR STEP FORWARD IN OUR EFFORTS TO PROTECT WOMEN’S SPORT… OUR POLICIES AND PRACTICES ARE CONTINUOUSLY EVALUATED TO ENSURE THEY ALIGN WITH THESE CORE VALUES, WHICH LED TO THE INTRODUCTION OF OUR OPEN CATEGORY.”

THOMAS RESPONDED TO THE RULING THROUGH LAWYERS SAYING:

“THE CAS DECISION IS DEEPLY DISAPPOINTING. BLANKET BANS PREVENTING TRANS WOMEN FROM COMPETING ARE DISCRIMINATORY AND DEPRIVE US OF VALUABLE ATHLETIC OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE CENTRAL TO OUR IDENTITIES. THE CAS DECISION SHOULD BE SEEN AS A CALL TO ACTION TO ALL TRANS WOMEN ATHLETES TO CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR OUR DIGNITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS.”

WORLD AQUATICS SAYS IT IS COMMITTED TO INCLUSIVITY.

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