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USA Powerlifting must let transgender athletes compete in women’s division after losing discrimination case

JayCee Cooper, a transgender athlete, won a discrimination case against USA Powerlifting this week after the federation banned her from competing in female events.

With Cooper’s victory comes a mandate the federation “cease and desist from all unfair discriminatory practices” because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The organization must revise its policy related to those issues within two weeks, meaning trans athletes will be able to compete in the women’s category after previously being banned.

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Cooper filed a complaint in 2019 with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, alleging the organization violated the state’s Human Rights Act by banning her and other trans athletes from competing in female competitions. 

She then filed a lawsuit against USA Powerlifitng in state court in 2021.

“I was fed up with the way that I was being treated; I was fed up with the way that my community was being treated, and enough was enough,” Cooper told KARE-TV.

“I feel mostly relief. I think we needed a win here, and it feels good to get that.”

“The harm is in making a person pretend to be something different, the implicit message being that who they are is less than,” the ruling said. “That is the very essence of separation and segregation, and it is what the MHRA prohibits.”

USA Powerlifting will consider an appeal.

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“Our position has been aimed at balancing the needs of cis- and transgender women whose capacities differ significantly in purely strength sports,” USA Powerlifting President Larry Maile said in a statement.

However, the court cited “increased risk of depression and suicide, lack of access to coaching and practice facilities, or other performance suppression common to transgender persons,” as competitive disadvantages for transgender competitors.

According to Open Powerlifting, Cooper last competed at the 2022 AMP Classic Open Nationals in Texas, where she finished in third place out of three competitors in her division. 

Cooper twice competed against a lone competitor — Rebecca Richnofsky — in the women’s raw 198+ open category in 2019, winning both times. In the 2019 USPA National Championships, she finished in fourth out of four competitors in that category.

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