Athlete Ally Responds to USAPL’s Harmful “Third Category”

December 22, 2020 (New York, NY) — Today, Athlete Ally responded to news that USA Powerlifting (USAPL) has adopted a new, third category as a “dedicated competition space for athletes of all gender identities.” This news follows a 2019 USAPL ban against allowing trans athletes to compete in sex-specific competitions that align with their gender identities. 

In response to the 2019 ban, Athlete Ally released a statement calling on USAPL to uphold Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which states that any form of discrimination has no place in Olympic sports. USAPL athletes and Pull for Pride leaders drafted an inclusive policy that would have allowed transgender athletes to compete according to their gender identity, expanding USAPL’s non-discrimination policy and providing clear safety recommendations. The policy also called on the USAPL to follow the World Anti-Doping Agency’s physician guidelines on Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for trans athletes and other athletes with medical clearance to take testosterone. The USAPL refused to adopt this policy, despite the fact that other strength-based sport governing bodies, such as USA Weightlifting, have worked to build policies that allow transgender lifters to compete in the category they identify. The new USAPL category fails to address any of the concerns raised by their discriminatory policies.

“Forcing trans athletes into a separate, third category is harmful ‘othering’ that only furthers the isolation and discrimination trans athletes face,” said Anne Lieberman, Athlete Ally’s Director of Policy and Programs. “It lumps trans athletes and nonbinary athletes together, when they should have the opportunity to choose the category in which they’d like to compete.  It also deprives all athletes of what we know to be the best part of sport — learning from and growing with a diverse group of teammates, and building friendships that last lifetimes. 

There must be a pathway to competition for trans athletes that does not force them into a category that they did not ask to be created — a pathway that affords trans and nonbinary athletes the same opportunities as their cisgender peers. We call on USAPL immediately to adopt the inclusive policy developed by Pull for Pride and allow trans and nonbinary athletes to compete in the category that aligns with their gender identity.”