Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been secretly mounting a legal challenge against World Aquatics, formerly known as FINA, challenging a new rule that bars most trans athletes from competing in high-level women’s sporting competitions including the Olympics.
Thomas’ lawyer, Carlos Sayao, a partner at Canadian law firm Tyr, told NBC News that Thomas is asking the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland to overturn a 2022 World Aquatics rule stipulating that trans athletes can only compete in women’s swimming if they began their gender transitions before the age of 12.
As CBN News reported, Thomas made headlines after winning first place in the NCAA Div. 1 Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in March 2022.
Thomas previously tried to compete in men’s swimming for three years as a man at the University of Pennsylvania before becoming transgender.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, or CAS, confirmed the legal challenge in a late January statement.
“Ms Thomas accepts that fair competition is a legitimate sporting objective and that some regulation of transgender women in swimming is appropriate,” the statement reads. “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.”
A hearing for Thomas’ legal challenge has not been set.
The World Swimming Coaches Association (WSCA) urged World Aquatics to create a “Trans Division” due to male physiological dominance over female athletes shortly after Thomas’ NCAA title win.
In a position statement published on the WSCA website, the group told the water sports board that the sport of swimming should be in an environment where everyone can participate and be treated with dignity and respect.
“However, the inclusion of transgender people into female sport cannot be balanced with fairness due to the retained differences in strength, stamina, and physique that are present when comparing the average female with the average transgender female/non-binary person who was assigned male at birth (whether with or without the involvement of testosterone suppression). This is the primary factor to be considered in an endeavor to balance fairness with inclusion,” the statement said.
“Competitive fairness cannot be reconciled with self-identification into the female category in a gender-affected sport such as swimming. The average differences in strength, stamina, and physique between the sexes is significant,” the coaches point out.
“Transgender females are, on average, likely to retain physical advantages listed above even if testosterone suppression is utilized; Categorization by sex is lawful, and hence the requirement to request information relating to birth sex is appropriate,” the statement said.
“For the sport of swimming, the inclusion of transgender people on the grounds of fairness cannot co-exist in the current competitive model. Swimming should choose to offer competition in which the female category is protected for reasons of competitive fairness,” the statement continued.
The group proposed a solution involving the creation of a Trans Division in which trans females race each other and trans males race each other.
Other athletes, like pro surfer Bethany Hamilton, have also supported a separate trans division for sports competitions.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) introduced the Protection of Women in Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to prohibit any governing body recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) from allowing biological males to participate in any athletic event intended for females.
Tuberville introduced the bill after Boxing’s highest national governing body updated its policy to allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s boxing.
According to the rules, transgender individuals must have undergone genital reassignment surgery and maintain stringent hormone testing before the competition.
READ Olympic Boxing Coach Warns US Trans Policy Poses Deadly Danger to Women: ‘This Is Wrong’
“It is deeply disturbing to see USA Boxing change its policy to allow men to box against women,” said Tuberville. “Men should not be competing in women’s sports at any level—and especially not in a sport like boxing. Whether in Little League or the Olympics, it’s unsafe, it’s unfair, and it’s just plain wrong. This bill will ensure that the Olympics are fair to American women who train their whole lives to represent our country on the world stage.”
Additionally, U.S. Representative Greg Steube (R-FL) introduced companion legislation in the House.
“Congress should not have to take legislative action to prevent biological men from hitting women for championship titles. Due to the illogical USA Boxing transgender policy, I introduced legislation to prevent organizations who choose to live in delusion from being recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee,” said Steube. “We must combat the erasure of women’s sports by standing for truth, reality, safety, and fairness.”
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