Trans swimmer Lia Thomas ‘sues to overturn strict new rules that prevent her from competing against biological female athletes, enacted after she sparked outrage – and hopes to take part in Paris Olympics’

  • World Aquatics banned transgender women after Thomas won an NCAA title
  • She hired a law firm to do her bidding at the Court of Arbitration for Sport

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has secretly launched a legal battle to overturn a decision banning her from competing against biological female athletes at international level.

Thomas, 24, has hired Canadian law firm Tyr to do her bidding at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, as reported by the Telegraph.

Last year, after Thomas won an NCAA title, World Aquatics banned those who had undergone “any part of male puberty” from the women’s category.

Thomas, who has not competed since 2022, is so optimistic about her chances that she is reportedly hoping to compete in the Paris Olympics. However, her case is unlikely to be heard before the Summer Games begin this summer.

World Aquatics told The Telegraph: ‘The World Aquatics Policy on Gender Inclusion, adopted by World Aquatics in June 2022, has been rigorously developed based on advice from leading medical and legal experts, and in close consultation with athletes.

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has secretly launched a legal battle to overturn a decision banning her from competing against biologically female athletes

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has secretly launched a legal battle to overturn a decision banning her from competing against biologically female athletes

Thomas competed as a man as recently as 2019, and her rankings improved significantly after her gender transition

Thomas competed as a man as recently as 2019, and her rankings improved significantly after her gender transition

UPenn women's swimmers and divers relax at the beach in January 2020.  Lia Thomas is surrounded

UPenn women’s swimmers and divers relax at the beach in January 2020. Lia Thomas is surrounded

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

Thomas competed as a man as recently as 2019, and her rankings improved significantly after her gender transition.

She sparked massive backlash, including from competitors, when she became the first openly transgender person to win a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I title.

Thomas was ranked 65th when he competed in the same category, the 500-meter freestyle, as a man, prompting outrage from activists.

Three months after her win, World Aquatics instituted a ban on transgender women.

Under previous rules, transgender women could compete at the international level in the female category as long as their testosterone levels were below five nanomoles per liter over a one-year period.

In January 2023, World Athletics announced they wanted to tighten their policy, but said their ‘preferred option’ was only to lower testosterone levels to 2.5 nmol/L and extend the transition period to two years.

This led to a huge backlash from female athletes and women’s rights campaigners who wanted a blanket ban on transgender athletes competing against other women.

After the backlash, members of the World Athletics Council admitted there was ‘little support’ for their original position during a consultation period.

The decision by World Athletics followed that of swimming’s world governing body, FINA, which had previously announced a ban on transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s races.