USA Powerlifting sued by transgender powerlifter over competition ban

USA Powerlifting sued by transgender powerlifter over competition ban
© Getty images

USA Powerlifting (USAPL) will face a discrimination lawsuit brought by a transgender powerlifter who was banned from competing on the basis of her gender identity. 

Minnesota-based advocacy group Gender Justice filed the lawsuit against the U.S.’s largest powerlifting organization on Tuesday on behalf of powerlifter JayCee Cooper, calling her competition ban a “blatantly transphobic policy” and “unacceptable.”

“Trans athletes across the country deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else, and we deserve equitable opportunities to compete in the sports we love,” Cooper said in a released statement. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"It came as a surprise to me that when I applied to compete at my first competition, I was told that I couldn't compete specifically because I'm a trans woman," she said at a Gender Justice news conference. "I was gutted. I had been training for months and up until that point had experienced so much love and community around the sport."

The lawsuit alleges that USAPL violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act by preventing Cooper from competing and pointed out that other powerlifting and sports organizations have established rules for transgender women to be included, NBC News reported

"USAPL denied Ms. Cooper's eligibility to compete because she is a transgender woman, withdrew her competition card because she is a transgender woman, and then went on to adopt a categorical ban on participation by transgender women athletes at USAPL competitions," the lawsuit said. 

In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established measures to allow transgender women to participate if their testosterone levels stay below a specific level for at least a year. USAPL’s parent organization, the International Powerlifting Federation, has approved the IOC’s rules but does not enforce them.

Cooper said her testosterone levels have remained below the IOC’s threshold for two years, and she included that information in documents to the USAPL, according to NBC News. 

USAPL did not have guidelines for transgender athletes until January 2019, at about the time it rejected Cooper from competing. 

The organization's “Transgender Participation Policy” states USAPL “is not a fit for every athlete and for every medical condition or situation.” 

"Men naturally have a larger bone structure, higher bone density, stronger connective tissue and higher muscle density than women," USAPL’s statement said. "These traits, even with reduced levels of testosterone do not go away. While MTF [male-to-female] may be weaker and less muscle than they once were, the biological benefits given them at birth still remain over than of a female."

In a statement, USAPL told The Hill that it is “aware of the public notice” that Gender Justice published on its website but has not received “any formal filing at this time.”

“We dispute the allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present the facts within the legal system,” the organization said. “No further statements will be made while this is going through legal proceedings.”