CAS Dismisses Lia Thomas’ Challenge to WA Policy, Citing Lack of Standing

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed transgender swimmer Lia Thomas’ plea for arbitration, stating that she lacks standing to challenge World Aquatics’ (WA) policy and operational requirements.

The challenged provisions of the policy outline eligibility criteria for transgender athletes to compete in women’s categories at WA competitions. Eligibility is granted if athletes demonstrate either complete androgen insensitivity precluding male puberty or, if androgen-sensitive, have had male puberty suppressed since Tanner Stage 2 or before age twelve, maintaining testosterone levels consistently below 2.5 nmol/L. The policy also details a certification process and consequences for deviations from testosterone level requirements, intentional or unintentional.

As to the operational requirements, the challenged provisions pertained to the identification and registration with WA of athletes based on chromosomal sex records, etc.

CAS assessed Thomas’ standing to challenge both the policy and operational requirements under Swiss law, considering that neither the policy nor the operational requirements mentioned as to who had a substantive right to challenge their rules. The Panel observed that the policy and operational requirements were not triggered and had no impact on the athlete unless and until the athlete was registered for a WA competition by a member federation.

The Panel clarified that the policy and the operational requirements could only be triggered when an athlete was entitled to compete in a WA competition, which occurred upon registration with WA prior to a competition, or the athlete set a performance leading to a request for registration as WA world record. Neither was the case in the matter at hand; Thomas was only entitled to compete in USA Swimming events that did not qualify as ‘Elite Events’.

With this, the policy and the operational requirements were held not to be triggered in the instant case, with the CAS Panel determining, “since the Athlete is not entitled to participate in ‘Elite Events’ within the meaning of USA Swimming Policy, let alone to compete in a WA Competition, which occurs upon registration with WA prior to a competition or upon setting a performance which leads to a request for registration as WA World Record, she is simply not entitled to engage with eligibility to compete in WA Competitions.”