Lia Thomas Loses Legal Battle Over World Aquatics Rules On Transgender Participation

Lia Thomas has been denied an attempt to appeal the ban implemented by World Aquatics on transgender women in 2022.

Thomas, a transgender woman who controversially won the 2022 NCAA title in the women’s 500 freestyle, chose to challenge the restrictions made by World Aquatics, which barred trans women who transitioned after undergoing any part of male puberty (starting at age 12) from competing in women’s categories.

On Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) dismissed Thomas’ pledge for an appeal, concluding that Thomas was “simply not entitled to engage with eligibility to compete in WA (World Aquatics) competitions” as someone who was no longer a member of USA Swimming.

“The panel concludes that since the Athlete is not entitled to participate in ‘Elite Event’ within the meaning of USA Swimming Policy, let alone to compete in a WA competition, which occurs upon registration with WA prior to a competition or upon setting a performance which leads to a request for registration as WA world record, she is simply not entitled to engage with eligibility to compete in WA competitions,” the Swiss-based court said in its ruling.

“The policy and the operational requirements are simply not triggered by her current status.”

Thomas has not competed since the 2022 NCAA Championships more than two years ago, and is not registered with USA Swimming which essentially is the reason why her legal case ended before it got started.

Her legal team made the argument that the rules made by World Aquatics should be declared “invalid and unlawful” as they were contrary to the Olympic charter and the World Aquatics constitution.

World Aquatics, which lobbied for the CAS to dismiss the case when it first came to light earlier this year, said it welcomed the CAS decision and called it “a major step forward in our efforts to protect women’s sport.”

“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 global governing body said.

When it made the decision to implement the transgender restrictions, World Aquatics cited experts who said that suppressing testosterone was not enough to reverse the biological advantages of puberty.

The organization added a new “open” category that allowed trans swimmers to compete, though when it was set to debut at the Berlin stop of the 2023 World Cup, it had no entries.

Thomas had said in the past she had the goal of competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

The former University of Pennsylvania swimmer started transitioning in 2019, and competed as a female during the 2021-22 NCAA season after competing in the men’s category in previous years.

Thomas went on to win the 2022 NCAA title in the 500 free, and also placed 5th in the 200 free and 8th in the 100 free.

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1 month ago

Has the Enhanced Games reached out to Lia Thomas? I wonder what their transgender policy is.

1 month ago


1 month ago

Enhanced Games invite incoming?

Emily Se-Bom Lee
Reply to  swim4fun
1 month ago

people laughed about the kensey mcmahon invite, but the enhanced games actually spoke about lia thomas 9 months ago:

Last edited 1 month ago by Emily Se-Bom Lee
1 month ago

I’m very pro LGBT, but competing as a female after years and years of physical development as a man is INSANE. The advantage is huge. Like 10 straight years of using steroids, then cycling off and competing against naturals.

Echo Nova
1 month ago

[Note – actual trans woman & former swimmer and official, also Deaf and disabled, founder of the EnTRANced Swimming Facebook group]

It’s very disappointing that the CAS would just throw out the case on the grounds that Lia Thomas isn’t a member of USA Swimming. Why would Lia be a part of USA Swimming if she would not be able to participate in the level of events that she could compete in? All this decision does is ensure that trans women are completely erased from high-level swimming because there becomes no point in even trying to get to those high-level meets when we are blocked off completely by them. And by this ruling, with no trans women to compete at… Read more »

Reply to  Echo Nova
1 month ago

I would think you’d have bigger fish to fry than trying to compete. And even if this is an important issue, it probably needs to be relegated to the back-burner. I support your desire to live as you want, but sports is not an arena for this. I sympathize with the desire to compete, to participate, but this is not the fight you need to engage. Sports have rules, and rules are there to ensure safety and a level field. A particular feature of swimming is that men don’t compete directly, 1 v 1 with women. Heavyweight boxers can’t fight middleweights, and there are probably many more examples.

Reply to  Echo Nova
1 month ago


1 month ago

I post the same thing every time I read about this topic …..

Two words: separate category

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  YGBSM
1 month ago

There aren’t enough trans swimmers to make it worthwhile.

50s for all 4 strokes!
Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
1 month ago

Give it time.

Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
1 month ago

Oh well

Mean Dean
1 month ago

I’d be interested how many IPs only comment when the words “Lia Thomas” are in the title

Just Keep Swimming
1 month ago

To all the people celebrating: did you read the article? This wasn’t a decision on the actual substance. They said they wouldn’t consider it because Lia is no longer a swimmer and therefore isn’t an affected party.

Reply to  Just Keep Swimming
1 month ago

Still don’t care

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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