Trans swimmer Lia Thomas loses legal battle over World Aquatics ban

A woman with wet hair smiles during a post-swimming match photoshoot.

Trans swimmer Lia Thomas has lost her bid to overturn World Aquatics (WA) restrictions on transgender athletes.

Thomas filed a legal dispute against the WA’s policy with the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland last September. 

In 2022, WA voted to implement rules that ban trans women from competing in elite races if they have gone through any male puberty. 

Thomas, who made history in 2022 as the first trans woman to win the top national college swimming championship, argued that the regulations were discriminatory. 

Trans swimmer Lia Thomas has had her legal challenge against a ban turned down. (Getty)

But now, in a 24-page report, CAS has rejected her claim, stating that she is not in a position to challenge the policy. 

As reported by the BBC the ruling states that Thomas was “simply not entitled to engage with eligibility to compete in WA competitions” as someone who was no longer a member of USA Swimming, “let alone compete in a WA competition”, and therefore was “not sufficiently affected” by the rules to be able to challenge them.

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WA welcomed the ruling, saying it marked a “major step forward in our efforts to protect women’s sports”.

WA says its gender-inclusion policy represents a ‘fair approach’

The governing body added: “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. 

“Our policies and practices are continuously evaluated to ensure they align with these core values, which led to the introduction of our open category. We remain committed to working with all stakeholders to uphold the principles of inclusivity and remain confident that our gender-inclusion policy represents a fair approach.”

Thomas has previously said that transgender women are “not a threat to women’s sports”, adding: “Trans people don’t transition for athletics. We transition to be happy and authentic and our true selves.” 

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