Controversial male-born transgender swimmer Lia Thomas is quietly taking World Aquatics to court in an effort to get its rules changed to allow him to compete and to eventually qualify for the Olympics, according to a report.
Thomas made waves in 2021 when he joined the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team after claiming to have transitioned to a female. He soon began racking up one win after another on the women’s team and eventually won several competitions at the 2022 NCAA Swimming Championships.
With the 2022 NCAA win, Thomas became the first male-born transgender athlete to with a Division 1 competition.
Before joining the UPenn women’s team, Thomas competed as a man, but as a member of the school’s men’s swimming team, he was a mediocre performer and never rose to the top of the standings, either nationally or in the school itself.
Thomas’s swath of wins in college women’s swimming caused an international furor over transgender athletes, with many maintaining that it is unfair to allow a person with a more powerful male body to compete alongside natural-born women.
After graduating at the end of the 2022 swimming season, Thomas found himself barred from competing professionally as a female swimmer because World Aquatics, the organization that governs professional swimming competitions, changed its rules to ban any male who transitioned after puberty from competing in the women’s categories.
Now, the UK Telegraph is reporting that Thomas has quietly launched a lawsuit against World Aquatics to force it to abandon its puberty-based rule so that he can begin competing in women’s swimming with an eye toward qualifying for the Olympics.
The Telegraph reported that Thomas has hired Canadian law firm Tyr to represent him in his case against World Aquatics.
The case is being pursued in Switzerland’s Court of Arbitration for Sport, which does not have open proceedings and typically hears its cases behind closed doors and in secret, the outlet added.
Indeed, the CAS court is so secretive that few knew that Thomas had brought his case to the CAS back in September. The fact has only now been made public.
World Aquatics has reportedly been attempting to convince the court to throw the case out on the basis that Thomas has not attempted to join USA Swimming and therefore is not impacted by the international swimming body’s rules, since he is not a member.
On the tail of his NCAA win, Thomas admitted to the U.S. media that he has Olympic dreams.
“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,” he told Good Morning America in May 2022.
Thomas also asserted that he transitioned to be “happy,” not to win swimming competitions.
“The biggest misconception, I think, is the reason I transitioned. People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage, so she could win’. I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself,” Thomas told ESPN.
Whether the World Aquatics rules are reversed or not, it seems unlikely that Thomas will have time to qualify for the 2028 Olympics, the Telegraph added.
Thomas’s lawyer, Carlos Sayao, who was also once a competitive swimmer, slammed World Aquatics’ rules as a “trans ban,” and told the Telegraph the rule is “discriminatory” and has caused “profound harm to trans women.”
“Trans women are particularly vulnerable in society and they suffer from higher rates of violence, abuse and harassment than cis women,” he added without evidence.
“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.
“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,” Sayao concluded.
For its part, World Aquatics stands by its new rules.
“The World Aquatics policy on gender inclusion, adopted by World Aquatics in June of 2022, was rigorously developed on the basis of advice from leading medical and legal experts, and in careful consultation with athletes,” said executive director Brent Nowicki.
“World Aquatics remains confident that its gender inclusion policy represents a fair approach and remains absolutely determined to protect women’s sport.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.