USA Powerlifting ordered to reverse ‘discriminatory’ ban on trans athletes after legal challenge

JayCee Cooper lifting a rock

A trans woman has won a legal battle against USA Powerlifting over its trans-exclusionary policy.

USA Powerlifting has been ordered by a court to “cease and desist from all unfair discriminatory practices” and given two weeks to reverse its ban on trans athletes.

The ruling came after a two-year legal battle brought by trans powerlifter JayCee Cooper. She filed a legal complaint in 2021 over the USA Powerlifting (USAPL) policy, which effectively banned transgender men and women from elite competitions.

A Minnesota District Court judge ruled on 27 February that the sporting body had discriminated against Cooper and other trans competitors.

Cooper’s initial legal complaint claimed that USAPL had violated sections of the Minnesota Human Rights Act by choosing to uphold the ban.

In his ruling statement, judge Patrick Diamond wrote: “USAPL denied [Cooper] the full and equal enjoyment of services, support and facilities the USAPL offered its members.

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“It separated Cooper and segregated her and, in doing so, failed to fully perform the contractual obligations it agreed to when it accepted Cooper’s money.”

At the time, USA Powerlifting claimed that not only did trans women have an unfair advantage over cisgender women but that the same was true for trans men in male competitions.

It argued that, because “testosterone and other androgens [are] commonly used to assist in transition from male to female,” it constituted an “unfair competitive advantage”.

The International Olympics Committee announced in November 2021 that after extensive research, it no longer considers testosterone the most important factor in determining whether trans women should be allowed to compete.

The Committee dropped blanket restrictions on testosterone levels in trans women, instead allowing individual sports to set their own rules. As a result, a number of sports have introduced policies that effectively ban trans women from women’s competitions.

In June 2022, the elite swimming governing body Fina implemented a ban on trans women who had “not experienced male puberty” after the age of 12. It was met with a vehement backlash from trans activists and competitors.

Havard University trans swimmer Schuyler Bailar told PinkNews that, following the policy announcement, he was unsure what research Fina was using to justify the policy.

“There’s a really big problem with putting out rules right now on trans athletes because we don’t actually have robust research,” he said. “Why? Because we’re not allowed to play. Not a lot of us have actually competed at elite level sports because of the amount of discrimination we experience.”

The ruling in JayCee Cooper’s case comes as a rare victory for trans people in competitive sports.

“Trans athletes across the country deserve the same rights and protections as everyone else,” Cooper told Outsports. “We deserve equitable opportunities to compete in the sports we love.

“I jumped through every hoop, cleared every hurdle to be able to compete with USA Powerlifting, but it was met with a retroactive ban on trans athletes.”

USA Powerlifting has said it will consider an appeal.