Lia Thomas challenges World Aquatics' policy on transgender athletes before Olympic court: report

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Former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who became the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title, is reportedly challenging World Aquatics in court in the hope of overturning its policy essentially banning transgender athletes from women’s sports. 

Thomas, who has not swum competitively since winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle event in 2022, has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland to overturn the sports governing body’s latest policy, which essentially banned biological males from competing in women’s elite events if they have undergone “any part of male puberty,” The Telegraph reported Friday. 

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas enters for the 200 Freestyle final during the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta on March 18, 2022. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

According to the report, Thomas hired Canadian law firm Tyr and first approached CAS in September. The report also noted that World Aquatics asked the court to toss the case as the current policy does not apply to Thomas, who has not competed since 2022. 


Carlos Sayao, Thomas’ lawyer, told the outlet that the current ban is “discriminatory.”

“Lia has now had the door closed to her in terms of her future ability to practice her sport and compete at the highest level,” he said. 

“She’s bringing the case for herself and other trans women to ensure that any rules for trans women’s participation in sport are fair, proportionate and grounded in human rights and in science.”

Lia Thomas at swimming competition

Lia Thomas waits for a preliminary heat in the Women’s NCAA 500 meter freestyle swimming championship at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta on March 17, 2022. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


Thomas previously expressed interest in competing in the Olympics during an interview with “Good Morning America” in 2022.

“It’s been a goal of mine to swim at Olympic trials for a very long time, and I would love to see that through,” she said.

But the following month of that year, World Aquatics, previously known as FINA, updated its policy for transgender athletes, essentially banning any biological male athletes from competing in women’s events unless they transitioned by the age of 12 or before undergoing “any part of male puberty.” 

Lia Thomas on the podium

Lia Thomas looks on from the podium after finishing fifth in the 200 Yard Freestyle during the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship at the McAuley Aquatic Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta on March 18, 2022. (Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)


The policy change was spurred by the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines and recommendation in November 2021 that all international federations develop their own sport-specific eligibility criteria for the women’s competition category.

This past summer, World Aquatics announced it was also establishing an “open category.” 

World Aquatics did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. 

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