Thomas began legal action in 2024 Photo: Marca.com

Transsexual Lia Thomas Loses Legal Battle: World Aquatics Impedes His Competing in the Women’s Category

The Court of Sports Arbitration (CSA) dismissed Thomas’ appeal, arguing that that he “simply did not have the right to commit to eligibility to compete in WA competitions” due to the fact that he was not a member of the American swim team.

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Julio Tudela y Cristina Castillo

(ZENIT News – Bioethics Laboratory of the Catholic University of Valencia / Valencia, 09.07.2024).- American swimmer Lia Thomas, who became the first transgender sportsperson to win a title in the American University League (NCAA I) in the 500 yards final in March 2022, lost a  lawsuit against World Aquatics (WA).

Thomas began legal action in 2024 against this international body, for banning the participation of any person in the women’s category, who has “gone through any part of masculine puberty.” Despite having undergone the transition process in 2019, Thomas hasn’t competed since 2022.

The Court of Sports Arbitration (CSA) dismissed Thomas’ appeal, arguing that that he “simply did not have the right to commit to eligibility to compete in WA competitions” due to the fact that he was not a member of the American swim team. The CSA concluded that the policy and operative requirements were not determined by Thomas’ current situation.

Although World Aquatics insists on its commitment to be inclusive and foster an environment of justice and respect for athletes of all genders, this decision implies that Lia Thomas will not be able to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

As already reported in a previous Report of our Observatory, Thomas swept the women’s championships in which he participated at the University level, sparking a great division of opinions regarding his presence in this category.

An Intense Debate 

The participation of transgender athletes in sports competitions has generated an intense debate in recent years. On one hand, there are women who fight for their right to compete in collegiate, University and professional leagues, which are firmly opposed to the participation of trans athletes. On the other hand, there is a movement that advocates that trans athletes be allowed to compete in keeping with the gender identities they have chosen.

In Thomas’ case, his participation in University Championships led the National Association of University Athletes (NAUA) to establish a maximum limit of testosterone in the blood as criterium to consider a person as a woman admissible in women’s competitions. Although Thomas underwent treatment of testosterone suppressors, he still has an advantage over his rivals.

Sebastian Coe, Olympic champion and Director of World Athletics, said that the biological differences are undeniable and that “gender cannot surpass the biology.”

In 2022, after a meeting with Princeton University women, concerned about Thomas’ presence in women’s competitions, Robin Harris, Directress of the Ivy League Athletics Conference, positioned herself in favour of the trans swimmer and refused to change the rules halfway through the competition, describing those that were opposed as “transphobic.”

Our Assessment

To define the plasma testosterone levels as a single factor, which must be resolved if a man who now describes himself as a woman is in equal conditions as the rest of the women competitors, is an important error. The physical, metabolic, endocrinal and neurological constitution is determined by the genetically determined sex from the embryonic state. To modify the testosterone levels does not eliminate the masculine configuration in those affected, who will continue to enjoy the physical superiority that has given them their masculinity during their whole life.

The establishment of categories for sports competitions is geared precisely so that athletes can compete in the most balanced possible conditions, namely, in conditions of equality. To ignore the biological sex implies the exact contrary: to influence against the equality of opportunities of those that, being different, have the same rights to them.

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