Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been quietly mounting a legal battle against World Aquatics to overturn the swimming governing body’s effective ban on most trans women competing at the sport’s highest levels, a lawyer representing Thomas confirmed. to NBC News on Friday.
Carlos Sayao, a partner at leading Canadian law firm Tyr, said Thomas is asking the Swiss Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn new World Aquatics rules, issued in June 2022, that ban trans women from competing in swimming events. female unless they have transitioned. before the age of 12.
The UK Telegraph was the first to report about Thomas’ closed-door legal challenge in an article published Thursday night. Details of Thomas’ challenge, which The Telegraph reported began in September, were not previously made public because cases brought before the Court of Arbitration for Sport must be kept confidential by all parties involved.
The new rules, which would effectively ban trans women from competing in women’s swimming events at the Olympics, came several months after Thomas, then a student at the University of Pennsylvania, made history by becoming the first openly transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship. . And in May 2022, Thomas said ABC News’ “Good Morning America” that it has been a lifelong goal to compete in the Olympics.
Sayao confirmed her comments to The Telegraph about the rules imposed by World Aquatics, which she called “discriminatory” and said they caused “profound harm to trans women.”
“Trans women are particularly vulnerable in society and suffer higher rates of violence, abuse and harassment than cis women,” she told the British newspaper.
Sayao declined to comment further. World Aquatics did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the legal challenge in a statement on Friday after the original version of this article was published.
“Ms. Thomas accepts that fair competition is a legitimate sporting goal and that some regulation of transgender women in swimming is appropriate,” said the statement read. “However, Ms Thomas maintains that the challenged provisions are invalid and illegal as they discriminate against her against 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.”
The international sports tribunal also noted that its cases are normally handled privately, but that the legal parties involved in Thomas’ case “agreed that general information about the procedure itself be communicated by the CAS Tribunal Office.”
A hearing has not yet been set for Thomas’ legal challenge, according to the statement.