Ilhan Omar Wants USA Powerlifting Investigated for Banning Biological Males from Competing in Women’s Events

Ilhan Omar
Getty Images/Alex Wong

If Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has her way, USA Powerlifting will soon find themselves under investigation for discrimination for preventing biological males from competing in women’s events.

The newly-minted representative from Minnesota copied Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on a letter she sent to USA Powerlifting. In which, she requested that Ellison investigate the powerlifting governing body for discrimination. Specifically, discrimination against biological males, by not allowing them to compete in women’s events. Omar believes USA Powerlifting is discriminating against males who identify as transgender women, based on the “myth” that they have a “direct competitive advantage” over biological females.

Omar’s letter was prompted by the story of JayCee Cooper, a male weightlifter who identifies as a woman. Cooper also resides in Omar’s district.

Omar wrote:

I am writing to express my concern over a recent decision by USA powerlifting to bar participation by my constituent, Ms. JayCee Cooper, because she is transgender.

Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, discrimination against anyone based on their gender identity is illegal. This includes in public accommodations, and in Minnesota, organizations such as USA Powerlifting. In fact, just last month a Minnesota jury awarded Ms. Christina Ginther $20,000 after the Independent Women’s Football League refused to allow her to participate because she is transgender.

I urge you to reconsider this discriminatory, unscientific policy and follow the example of the International Olympic Committee. The myth that trans women have a “direct competitive advantage” is not supported by medical science, and it continues to stoke fear and violence against one of the most at-risk communities in the world.

While I do not have direct jurisdiction over this matter as a U.S. congresswoman, I’m sending this letter to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison with a recommendation that he investigate this discriminatory behavior.

In January, USA Powerlifting issued a rule banning biological males from competing in women’s events. Conversely, biological females are allowed to compete in men’s events. However, the women are required to follow the same protocols regarding testosterone, and other performance enhancers.

The weightlifting governing body explained their reasoning on their website.

“Men naturally have a larger bone structure, higher bone density, stronger connective tissue and higher muscle density than women. These traits, even with reduced levels of testosterone do not go away. While [male-to-female athletes] may be weaker and less muscle than they once were, the biological benefits given them at birth still remain over that of a female.”

In her letter, Omar makes specific reference to International Olympic Committee guidelines, when deciding how to incorporate transgender athletes. However, as USA Powerlifting points out, IOC guidelines give various sports some latitude when it comes to implementing policy regarding transgender participation.

“…the IOC Guidelines also allows sports to determine the impact on fair play through such inclusion.  The IPF Medical Committee, while respecting the rights of those who choose to transition, has been consistent in its opinion that use of testosterone and participation of male to female transgender athletes in our sport compromises fair play.”

Ellison has not yet said whether he will investigate USA Powerlifting.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn


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