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Lia Thomas Suffers Fatal Blow Amid Olympics Lawsuit



In a significant setback for transgender athlete Lia Thomas, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed his lawsuit challenging the ban on biological males competing against women in the Olympics. The 25-year-old swimmer had sought to overturn World Aquatics’ policy that requires transgender women to complete their transition by the age of 12 in order to participate in women’s races.

Thomas, who gained national attention after becoming the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA college title in 2022, argued that the World Aquatics rules were “invalid and unlawful” and violated the Olympic charter and the World Aquatics convention.

However, the CAS concluded that Thomas was not “entitled to engage with eligibility to compete in WA competitions,” the Daily Mail reports.

World Aquatics welcomed the court’s decision, calling it a “major step forward in our efforts to protect women’s sport.” The organization reiterated its commitment to fostering an environment that promotes fairness, respect, and equal opportunities for athletes of all genders.

The introduction of the new World Aquatics rules came after Thomas beat Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant by 1.75 seconds to win the NCAA gold in the women’s 500-yard freestyle. The organization cited scientific evidence indicating that swimmers like Thomas retained physical advantages, such as endurance, power, speed, strength, and lung size, even after reducing their testosterone levels through medication.

The court’s ruling on Wednesday determined that Thomas had no standing to sue over the transgender policy, effectively ending his hopes of competing against women in the Olympics.

Thomas’ victory in the NCAA championship sparked intense debate over the participation of transgender athletes in elite sports. Prior to his transition, Thomas had competed on the University of Pennsylvania men’s swim team for three seasons before starting hormone replacement therapy in the spring of 2019.

Critics argued that going through male puberty gave Thomas a considerable advantage over his female competitors, allowing him to develop greater muscle mass and strength. Three months after her NCAA win, World Aquatics implemented a ban on transgender women, while US Swimming introduced strict transgender regulations that fell short of an outright ban.

Under the previous rules, transgender women could compete in the female category at the international level as long as their testosterone levels were below five nanomoles per liter over a one-year period. In January 2023, World Athletics proposed tightening their policy by reducing the testosterone threshold to 2.5 nmol/L and increasing the transition period to two years.

However, this proposal faced backlash from female athletes and women’s rights campaigners, who called for a blanket ban on transgender athletes competing against other women. They contended that even with lowered testosterone levels, trans-female athletes still possess an inherent biological advantage that makes competition against them unfair.

Following the consultation period, World Athletics council members acknowledged that there was “little support” for their original stance, leading to the decision to implement a more restrictive policy in line with that of FINA, swimming’s world governing body.

The lawsuit filed by former Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines and other college athletes against the NCAA in March further highlighted the ongoing controversy surrounding transgender participation in women’s sports. The federal lawsuit, which centers around Thomas, alleges that his win and participation in the 2022 NCAA championships violated Title IX, which guarantees women equal opportunities in sports.

The plaintiffs also accuse the NCAA of violating the Fourteenth Amendment by allowing “naked men possessing full male genitalia to disrobe in front of non-consenting college women,” thus infringing upon their constitutional right to bodily privacy.

Gaines responded to the ruling, stating: “Great news! Lia Thomas won’t be able to compete in women’s category at the Olympics or any other elite competition. He has just lost his legal battle in Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling.”

“This is a victory for women and girls everywhere.”

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