USA Powerlifting to appeal trans inclusion court order

The recent ruling by Minnesota District Judge Patrick Diamond in favor of a transgender woman who was barred from competing in USA Powerlifting’s female category  has sparked a debate about the inclusion.

The judge found that USA Powerlifting discriminated against Cooper by not allowing her to compete and ordered the organization to amend its policies.

The ruling has thrust the sport and its athletes into a political firestorm. The lawsuit has become a bellwether for other governing bodies as they grapple with how to include transgender athletes while balancing issues of fairness and inclusion.

USA Powerlifting has argued that allowing transgender women to compete against cisgender women would be competitively unfair and leave the organization vulnerable to legal challenges from cis athletes and their advocates.

The organization has also stated that the gap between the average performance of men and women is more pronounced in powerlifting than in other sports, making it difficult to create a level playing field for all competitors.

However, the judge’s ruling points out that “segregation and separation are the hallmarks of discrimination” and that “discrimination claims are not defeated because separate services, facilities, accommodations were made available.”

USA Powerlifting’s creation of the MX division just days before Cooper’s case was filed has been criticized for being insufficient and for not adequately addressing the issue of inclusivity.

The new category had only four competitors last year, according to court filings, whereas USA Powerlifting has a membership of 27,400 lifters and sanctions more than 400 competitions per year.

But the court case is far from over, USA Powerlifting plans to appeal. Larry Maile, president of USA Powerlifting told WAPO:

“You can be, honestly, terrible technically,” Maile said, “and the stronger person wins out anyway.”

“We’re sort of in an uncomfortable position. And the uncomfortable position is we’re trying to balance the needs of cis women and trans women and various groups,” he said. “And those are, at least in the case of the Minnesota situation, conflicting.”

In court filings, USA Powerlifting presented data it said shows the differences between male and female lifters, making the argument that transgender women who went through puberty benefited from a boost of testosterone that has a lasting effect well after transitioning to female. “A gulf we couldn’t overcome,” Maile called it. The organization presented experts who found men hold a 65 percent performance advantage in powerlifting; even after taking testosterone-restricting agents, “strength reductions were minimal, only 4% over 12 months,” USA Powerlifting said in court filings.