Swimmer Lia Thomas files legal dispute against World Aquatics’ anti-trans policies

The policies restrict trans swimmers' eligibility for the Olympics. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Swimmer Lia Thomas has filed a legal dispute against the World Aquatics’ anti-trans policies which restrict trans swimmers’ eligibility for the Olympics. 

According to a 26 January report from The Telegraph, Thomas initially filed the dispute with the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland last September. 

The dispute between the swimmer and the organisation was not immediately made public as CAS is confidential by default. 

Her dispute addresses several recently introduced policies from World Aquatics which would disqualify most trans women and intersex athletes from international women’s swimming events like the Olympics and the Swimming World Cup, and require them to compete in the new “open” category. 

As of October 2023, this category was cancelled at the Swimming World Cup after no one signed up. 

Previously, trans women could compete if their testosterone levels met the allotted requirements. But two years ago, the governing body voted to prevent trans women from competiting in women’s elite races if they had gone through any part of puberty. 

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Carlos Sayao, who is legally representing Thomas, told the outlet that the policies are “discriminatory”. 

“Trans women are particularly vulnerable in society and they suffer from higher rates of violence, abuse and harassment than cis women,” Sayao said, adding that the World Aquatics’ policies would bring “profound harm to trans women”.

In a statement to BBC Sport, Brent Nowicki, the executive director of World Aquatics, said: “[Our] policy on gender inclusion, adopted by World Aquatics in June of 2022, was rigorously developed on the basis of advice from leading medical and legal experts, and in careful consultation with athletes.

“World Aquatics remains confident that its gender inclusion policy represents a fair approach, and remains absolutely determined to protect women’s sport.”

Thomas is yet to provide a comment on the matter. 

The news comes as trans professional golfer Hailey Davidson has been forced to undergo testosterone testing following her women’s pro tour event win in Florida.

Davidson won the tournament at the NXXT Women’s Classic at Howey-in-the-Hills, which ended on 17 January, but was subjected to transphobia following her win. 

The sporting event has since requested that Davidson undergo “additional testosterone testing to ensure compliance with the appropriate guidelines”. 

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