USA Powerlifting responds to transgender discrimination complaint

UPDATE June 17: USA Powerlifting emailed the following statement to Outsports:


(Anchorage, Alaska June 17, 2019) There is reportedly a filing under the Minnesota Human Rights Act alleging discrimination on the part of USA Powerlifting with regard to not allowing transgender females to compete in the women’s competition division. USA Powerlifting has not seen this filing, although objects to the characterization of these allegations as charges. No criminal complaint has been authored or issued, and this mischaracterization represents the language of bullying and abuse as has been directed at USA Powerlifting, its officials, and members.

It is a further inaccurate to describe USA Powerlifting as banning transgender athletes. Our rules state that divisions are based on sex, and that analysis of scientific data reflects the inherent differences in strength in powerlifting, between biological males (XY) and biological females (XX). This difference is so significant that reduction of androgens does not, and cannot overcome these differences. To allow those born and who went through puberty as males to compete as females would be inherently discriminatory against a federally protected class: women. Further, allowing transgender males to use androgens when no other category of athlete is allowed them represents an unfair advantage and against the founding principles of USA Powerlifting. Accordingly, transgender women are allowed to compete in the division reflecting their birth, and transgender men may compete without androgens.

The question of whether a governmental entity may dictate an inherently unfair and discriminatory practice, ignoring the evidence that to do so will damage a specific group or several groups of athletes is a larger issue. It goes to the heart of whether it is appropriate for government to intrude on the practices and rules of a private entity acting to protect fair play, in recognition of scientific evidence about the factors involved. The issue of whether USA Powerlifting may be singled out in the context of other similar organizations with similar rules may well represent abuse of discretion, over-interpretation of “public accommodation” as defined in Minnesota statutes, and misuse of the protected group based on sexual orientation. USA Powerlifting is decidedly not biased against nor discriminatory to anyone based on sexual orientation or preference and welcomes all to participate who comply with our rules. USA Powerlifting will examine this complaint should it proceed and if received, will defend our policies and practices vigorously.

USA Powerlifting remains committed to a platform that is drug free and fair for all.

USA Powerlifting Transgender Participation Policy

American Drug Free Powerlifting Association dba USA Powerlifting

ORIGINAL REPORT: A group that advocates for gender equality has lodged a complaint of discrimination against USA Powerlifting with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights on behalf of a transgender athlete, JayCee Cooper.

Minnesota-based Gender Justice accuses USAPL of violating a landmark 1993 law that prohibits discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and identity, the first in the nation to protect trans Americans.

As Outsports has reported, USAPL blocked Cooper from competing in Minnesota’s State Bench Press Championship in January, even though she met the organization’s policies for competition and disclosed her gender identity.

USAPL’s response was to issue a new, retroactive blanket ban on transgender athletes, which the organization staunchly defends as a “transgender participation policy.” The policy, however, does not allow participation by trans athletes. In interviews with news media, in social media posts and within the policy itself, USAPL has opposed all characterizations of that policy as a ban.

Cooper issued a statement via Gender Justice:

“As a powerlifter and a transgender person, I’m no stranger to a challenge,” said Cooper.

“I’ve jumped through all the hoops, trying to meet USA Powerlifting’s arbitrary and subjective standards, just to have them respond with an outright ban on transgender women in competitions. At some point you have to say enough is enough. Trans rights are human rights. Trans athletes are supported in our right to compete by the International Olympic Committee, the International Powerlifting Federation’s Executive Committee, federal and Minnesota state law. USA Powerlifting’s blanket ban violates not just the law, but the very spirit of sports.”

According to Gender Justice, the group’s filing with the human rights commission accuses USA Powerlifting of discriminating against Cooper in public accommodations on the basis of gender identity, in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The group is seeking protection from discrimination for Cooper and all athletes, and what it calls “a clear, fair standard that allows trans athletes the opportunity to compete.”

“There are many threats to women’s sports, but equality and inclusion are not among them,” said Gender Justice Legal Director Jess Braverman in the group’s statement. “Like other female athletes, JayCee is facing policies rooted in bias, fear and unfounded stereotypes. We believe USA Powerlifting’s over-the-top blanket ban on transgender women athletes is clear discrimination under Minnesota law, and we will fight for JayCee’s opportunity to compete.”

Outsports has repeatedly attempted to seek comment from USAPL and the organization’s leadership, without success, and we did not receive any response to this new development as of press time.

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