Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Banned From Competing At The Olympics

Written by James C., M.S.(C), PT

| Published on

Fact Checked

In a recent ruling, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has upheld regulations that prevent transgender swimmer Lia Thomas from competing in the upcoming Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

The decision marks a significant development in the ongoing debate surrounding gender inclusion policies in sports.

Lia Thomas, a prominent figure in competitive swimming, sought to participate in the 2024 Summer Olympics, arguing that the World Aquatics’ gender inclusion policy was invalid, unlawful, and discriminatory.

However, CAS determined that Thomas lacked the standing to challenge the policy, effectively barring her from competing in women’s elite races at the international level.

Background on Lia Thomas

Thomas made headlines in 2022 when she became the NCAA champion in the 500-yard freestyle, earning All-American honors in three women’s swimming and diving championships.

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Notably, she is the first known transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I women’s title. Before her success in women’s competitions, Thomas competed in men’s swimming events at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Gender Inclusion Policy

The policy in question, established by World Aquatics in 2022, mandates that biological male athletes can only compete in women’s elite races if they transitioned before the age of 12 or before experiencing any part of male puberty.

This policy was introduced shortly after Thomas’s notable achievements in women’s swimming, aiming to address concerns about fairness and competition integrity.

The Court’s Ruling

CAS, based in Switzerland, reviewed Thomas’s appeal but concluded that she did not have the requisite standing to overturn the rules.

The court’s decision was rooted in the fact that Thomas had been competing outside of the World Aquatics competitive system.

In response to the ruling, World Aquatics hailed it as a “major step forward” in their efforts to protect women’s sports.

The governing body emphasized their commitment to promoting fairness, respect, and equal opportunities for athletes of all genders, reaffirming their dedication to these principles in their official statement.

Reactions and Implications

The decision has sparked diverse reactions from various stakeholders. Advocates for transgender athletes argue that such policies are exclusionary and discriminatory, hindering the inclusion and recognition of transgender individuals in sports.

On the other hand, proponents of the policy believe it ensures a level playing field, maintaining the integrity of women’s sports by addressing physical advantages that may arise from male puberty.

As the sports community continues to navigate the complexities of gender inclusion, this ruling underscores the ongoing challenges and discussions surrounding fairness, competition, and equality in athletics.

Lia Thomas’s case serves as a pivotal moment in the broader conversation about the intersection of gender identity and sports participation.


The CAS ruling against Lia Thomas’s bid to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympics highlights the contentious and evolving nature of gender inclusion policies in sports.

While the decision supports the current regulations set by World Aquatics, it also brings to light the need for continued dialogue and consideration of diverse perspectives to foster an inclusive and fair sporting environment for all athletes.

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