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Court denies male swimmer’s bid to compete in elite female races

Swimmer Lia Thomas speaks to his coach after winning the 500 meter freestyle during a meet with Harvard on Jan. 22, 2022, at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. The Associated Press/Photo by Josh Reynolds, File

Court denies male swimmer’s bid to compete in elite female races

A Switzerland-based sports court ruled Wednesday that a man who identifies as a woman can’t challenge rules that prohibit him from competing in the elite women’s races, according to The Associated Press. The Court of Arbitration for Sports effectively tossed an appeal by the man, who goes by the name Lia Thomas, against World Aquatics, the global organization governing swimming. World Aquatics prohibits men who have already gone through male puberty from competing internationally in the women’s category. The Switzerland court dismissed Thomas’ request, ruling that he did not have the standing to bring the case against World Aquatics.

Who is Lia Thomas? Lia Thomas, formerly known as Will Thomas, is a biological male who identifies as female. He made headlines in March 2022 when he won an NCAA swimming title as a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. He took the lead in the final 100 yards of the 500-yard freestyle women’s event, scoring a season-best time of 4 minutes, 33.24 seconds. At the time, Thomas was hailed by many as the first athlete who identifies as transgender to win an NCAA swimming championship.

What has been the response to the decision? Athlete Ally, a pro-LGBTQ organization, cited a statement from Thomas calling the decision deeply disappointing and discriminatory. Riley Gaines, a member of the University of Kentucky 2022 swim team, hailed the ruling as a victory for women and girls everywhere and called on the NCAA to strip Thomas of every award, title, and record that she characterized as stolen from deserving female athletes.

Dig deeper: Read Ray Hacke’s report on women’s advocates who called Thomas’ NCAA win unfair.

Travis K. Kircher

Travis is the associate breaking news editor for WORLD.

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