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Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Lodges Case Against World Aquatics With CAS

Swimmer Lia Thomas, the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I individual national title, has lodged a case with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against World Aquatics after it voted to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions.

In June 2022, World Aquatics released a new eligibility policy for its competitions, stating that male-to-female transgender athletes would be eligible to compete in the women’s categories only if they can establish that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 (of puberty) or before age 12, whichever is later.

Up until then, transgender women could compete as long as they lowered their testosterone levels.University of Pennsylvania swimmer Thomas, who became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle in 2022, wants to compete for a place at the 2024 Paris Olympics but the new World Aquatics’ regulation would block her participation.

CAS said Thomas’ legal filing is aimed at challenging certain parts of World Aquatics’ policy on the eligibility for the men’s and women’s competition categories.

“Ms Thomas accepts that fair competition is a legitimate sporting objective and that some regulation of transgender women in swimming is appropriate,” CAS said in a statement published on Friday.“However, Ms Thomas submits that the Challenged Provisions are invalid and unlawful as they discriminate against her contrary to the Olympic Charter, the World Aquatics Constitution, and Swiss law including the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and that such discrimination cannot be justified as necessary, reasonable, or proportionate to achieve a legitimate sporting objective.”“In bringing the matter before CAS, Ms Thomas seeks an order from the CAS declaring that the Challenged Provisions are unlawful, invalid, and of no force and effect.”

In June 2023, World Aquatics announced it would start an “Open” category that includes all transgender athletes.

Several sporting governing bodies – including in cycling and athletics – have also banned transgender athletes from elite female competition over the past two years.

In the United States, over 20 states have approved legislation targeting transgender girls and women athletes, as a discussion about transgender athletes in school sports has intensified in recent years.

Some Republicans— including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis— have promoted transgender sports participation as a culture war talking point.

Last year, the Joe Biden Administration proposed regulations to prevent future state bans, though they included a loophole allowing school teams to develop their own policies. University of Pennsylvania swimmer Thomas, who became the first transgender NCAA champion in Division I history after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle in 2022, wants to compete for a place at the 2024 Paris Olympics but the new World Aquatics’ regulation would block her participation.

CAS said Thomas’ legal filing is aimed at challenging certain parts of World Aquatics’ policy on the eligibility for the men’s and women’s competition categories.

“Ms Thomas accepts that fair competition is a legitimate sporting objective and that some regulation of transgender women in swimming is appropriate,” CAS said in a statement published on Friday.

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