Professional swimmer Lia Thomas has filed charges against World Aquatics following a vote to prohibit transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s aquatics competitions. Thomas’ case challenges aspects of the World Aquatics’ gender inclusion policy which was established in June of 2022, according to CNN.
World Aquatics is the governing body for all aquatics around the world. It currently operates under president Captain Husain Al Musallam and comprises 209 National Member Federations across five continents. Currently, they oversee aquatic competitions in swimming, high diving, water polo, diving, open water swimming, and artistic swimming.
The organization’s gender inclusion policy rules that male-to-female transgender athletes are only eligible to compete in the women’s categories if they transition before the age of 12. It also says athletes who have used testosterone as a gender-affirming hormone treatment for female-to-male transitions are only eligible to compete in women’s competitions if their use of the hormone was less than a year in total.
Director of policy and programs for Athlete Ally, an advocacy group working to end homophobia and transphobia in sports, Danne Diamond, told CNN “World Aquatics’ transgender policy causes profound harm to trans women, who are particularly vulnerable in society and suffer from high rates of violence, abuse, and harassment in society and in sport.”
Lia Thomas, a former University of Pennsylvania swimmer, was the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship. She filed her lawsuit with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The legal battle began confidentially in September 2023, according to The Advocate.
Thomas’s legal team is arguing that this discriminatory policy “contravenes the Olympic Charter, the World Aquatics Constitution, and various human rights laws, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,” The Advocate reports.
A public court date for the legal challenge has yet to be assigned.