Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas barred from Olympics after losing legal battle against governing body

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Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been barred from the Olympics

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas will not be able to compete in the Olympics after losing her legal challenge against the rules that barred her participation. Thomas, 25, gained national attention when she won the women's NCAA college swimming title in March 2022, the highest college title in the US.

However, later that year, World Aquatics (WA), the international governing body for swimming, introduced new regulations preventing individuals who have undergone "any part of male puberty" from competing in the female category.

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Thomas had previously competed for Pennsylvania's men's team for three seasons before beginning hormone replacement therapy in early 2019, making her subject to the new rule. In response, she filed a legal challenge with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), arguing that the rules were invalid, unlawful, and discriminatory.

Despite her efforts, the CAS dismissed her case on a technicality, stating that 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.

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been barred from the OlympicsTransgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been barred from the Olympics
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been barred from the Olympics | Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The three-judge panel concluded that she lacked standing to challenge the policy within the context of the present proceedings. World Aquatics welcomed the decision, saying that it was "a major step forward in our efforts to protect women's sport."

Previously, USA Swimming had granted Thomas's request for "self-identity verification" under its athlete inclusion policy. However, the judges noted that USA Swimming did not have the authority to "modify such scope of application" of the world governing body's rules.

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Thomas was represented by Toronto-based legal firm Tyr, which has also represented two-time Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya. Semenya is similarly excluded from competing in her specialist 800 meter event under World Athletics rules due to elevated testosterone levels.

Following World Aquatics' policy on transgender athletes, other top-tier Olympic sports have also implemented rules excluding individuals who have potentially gained lasting physical advantages from male puberty. The CAS judges declined World Aquatics' request for Thomas to cover its legal costs and other expenses incurred in the case.

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