Transgender Swimmer Loses Bid to Overturn Ban on Men in Elite Women’s Sports

Ahead of the Olympics, Lia Thomas’s challenge in an international court to access all-women’s sports in elite competitions has been declined.
Transgender Swimmer Loses Bid to Overturn Ban on Men in Elite Women’s Sports
University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas looks on after winning the 200 yard freestyle during the 2022 Ivy League Women's Swimming and Diving Championships at Blodgett Pool in Cambridge, Mass., on Feb. 18, 2022. (Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

An international court that arbitrates disputes in elite sports has ruled against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in a legal challenge to rules preventing female-identifying mature males from competing in women’s events.

The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on June 10 dismissed Lia Thomas’s January request to overturn a June 2022 decision by World Aquatics to ban transgender swimmers who have been through male puberty from competing in elite women’s races.

Before the World Aquatics decision, female-identifying male athletes could compete as long as they lowered their testosterone levels. But the organization changed course after a scientific panel found that even after taking medication that lowered testosterone, male competitors still had a significant advantage over women.

Mr. Thomas challenged that rule change, asking CAS to overturn it on the basis that it was illegitimate, unlawful, and discriminatory; went against the Olympic charter and the World Aquatics constitution; and violated international norms on human rights and nondiscrimination protections for women.
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But the CAS court disagreed, dashing Mr. Thomas’s hopes of make next month’s Paris Olympics.

In a decision issued on June 12, the arbitration panel cited lack of standing, saying that Mr. Thomas had no grounds to sue World Aquatics’ transgender policy because the athlete was no longer a member of USA Swimming and had not been registered to participate in any World Aquatics international competitions.

Carlos Sayao, an attorney who represented Mr. Thomas in the proceeding, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.


World Aquatics released a statement welcoming the CAS decision.

“World Aquatics is dedicated to fostering an environment that promotes fairness, respect, and equal opportunities for athletes of all genders and we reaffirm this pledge,” the body said in the statement, which was provided to some media outlets. “Our policies and practices are continuously evaluated to ensure they align with these core values, which led to the introduction of our open category.”

Former collegiate swimmer and current policy advocate Riley Gaines, who competed against Mr. Thomas and has been a vocal critic of transgender-identifying individuals’ competing in women’s sports, took to social media platform X to praise the arbitration panel’s ruling.

“Great news! Lia Thomas won’t be able to compete in women’s category at the Olympics or any other elite competition. He has just lost his legal battle in Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling. This is a victory for women and girls everywhere,” Ms. Gaines wrote.

Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, an organization that advocates “equal access” to sports, regardless of gender identity, issued a statement calling the CAS decision a “sad day” for sports and for transgender athletes.

“By dismissing Lia Thomas’ legal challenge against World Aquatics, the CAS has denied her fundamental right to access an effective remedy for acts that violate her human rights,“ Mr. Taylor said. ”This is a sad day for sports and for anyone who believes that trans athletes should have the opportunity for their experiences of discrimination to be heard and adjudicated like everyone else.”

Athlete Ally noted that the CAS decision did not address the World Aquatics restrictions on transgender athletes but merely ruled on the basis of standing.

A number of states and localities have adopted laws banning transgender-identifying athletes from participating in school sports, most frequently in K–12, with some of these laws facing legal challenges.

An overwhelming majority of Americans say that athletes should be allowed to compete only on sports teams that conform with their biological sex and not their preferred “gender identity.”
World Athletics, the international governing body for the sport of athletics, recently banned “male-to-female transgender athletes” from competing in women’s events at international competitions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
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