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Transgender woman sues USA Powerlifting for discrimination due to ‘categorical’ competition ban

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 1/14/2021 Nancy Dillon

Transgender athlete JayCee Cooper has filed a lawsuit against USA Powerlifting after the nation’s premier powerlifting federation banned her from competition citing her sex assigned at birth.

The Minneapolis resident, 33, says in her complaint that she came out as transgender more than a decade ago and was formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2014.

She now takes an anti-androgen drug that substantially decreases the testosterone in her body, and her sustained levels should more than qualify her for eligibility in the women’s superheavyweight division, she says.

Under International Olympic Committee guidelines, transgender women are allowed to compete if their testosterone levels remain below a certain mark for at least 12 months prior to competition.

a woman smiling for the camera: JayCee Cooper is suing USA Powerlifting. © Instagram JayCee Cooper is suing USA Powerlifting.

JayCee Cooper is suing USA Powerlifting. (Instagram /)

According to her lawsuit, Cooper says she was informed by USA Powerlifting in a Dec. 2018 email that she was ineligible to compete because “male-to-female transgenders are not allowed to compete as females in our static strength sport as it is a direct competitive advantage.”

She says the rejection ignored the fact that her testosterone levels remained within IOC guidelines for two years.

“I don’t want anyone to experience what I and other trans athletes have (had) and continue to experience — having our basic human dignity questioned and opportunities denied because we are trans,” Cooper said during a news conference announcing her legal action.

“We all benefit when sports are as inclusive as possible,” she said.

She called her denial from USA Powerlifting a “surprise” that left her “gutted.”

“I had been training for months and up until that point had experienced so much love and community around the sport. So it was very disappointing to see that I had no more access forward, especially considering USA Powerlifting’s tie to the Olympic movement.”

In an email statement to the Daily News, USA Powerlifting said it was aware of the lawsuit but had not yet been served.

“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.”

Cooper generated national headlines in early 2019 when she first went public with her story on Instagram.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., responded by branding USA Powerlifting’s policy “discriminatory and unscientific.”

Cooper’s lawsuit was filed this week in Ramsey County, Minn., with legal assistance from the advocacy group Gender Justice.


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