Angel Flores — a 22-year-old USA Powerlifting (USAPL) gold-medalist in the MX division — was excited to compete in the United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) Violet Crown Classic at her home gym, Liberation Barbell Club in Austin, TX. However, that same day, Flores posted a video on her Instagram, revealing that on Jan. 4, 2022, the USPA “disallowed” her from competing in the drug-tested meet because she is trans.
The USPA’s decision to block Flores from participating in the Jan. 29 meet is in line with their rulebook, updated on Jan. 1, 2022. It states that transgender athletes and people “using any hormone” cannot compete in tested divisions.
Flores’ entanglement with the USPA’s new ruleset highlights the ongoing changes to rules regarding the participation of transgender athletes. Some organizations, such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), have adopted pathways for trans people to compete in their events, while more restrictive policies within other organizations have prompted legal action.
Editor’s Note: BarBend has reached out to the USPA for comments. At the time this article was published, USPA had not responded. We will update this article if and when they respond.
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Of the update to the USPA rulebook, Flores tells BarBend via email that,
“The USPA rule book [previously] stated [that there is] ‘no distinction between transgender and cisgender lifters,’ and ‘prescribed hormones’ was understood as only those on the banned substance list. Since many of us have been on the hormones for years, and none of us were using any banned substances, several peers were able compete.”
“This was going to be my very first meet alongside my cisgender peers,” Flores wrote in the caption of her Instagram post. “Since the announcement of the new 100-kilogram weight class, I was excited at the chance to maybe hit some nice records for my age group. On January 4th, the owner of [Liberation Barbell Club]… received a call telling her that I would be disallowed from competing in this tested meet.”
Flores still lifted at the Jan. 29 meet as a guest lifter — ineligible to set any records. Here are Flores’ full results from her appearance at the Violet Crown Classic:
2022 USPA Violet Crown Classic Results
- Squat — 189.6 kilograms (418 pounds)
- Bench Press —109.7 kilograms (242 pounds)
- Deadlift —199.5 kilograms (440 pounds)
- Total — 499 kilograms (1,100 pounds)
USPA’s Updated Rules
You can check out the complete updated version of the USPA’s rulebook here. The USPA’s new rule (1.8.28) specifically reads:
Transgender athletes are not eligible to compete in the drug-tested division and must compete only in the non-tested division.
Rule 1.8.19* of the updated rulebook also states:
The USPA/IPL does not allow any therapeutic use exemptions. This means no lifter using any hormone, regardless of medical necessity or choice, or other banned substance (see sec. 12), is allowed to compete in the drug-tested division.
In addition to preventing transgender people receiving gender-affirming medical treatment from competing in tested meets, as written, it also bans from tested competition people who take hormonal birth control, as well as people with diabetes and thyroid conditions that require hormonal treatment.
On Jan. 27, prior to this article’s publication, the USPA said, in the private Facebook group United States Powerlifting Association (USPA)”, that “section 1.8.19 will be removed about all hormones in a new update coming very soon to the rulebook.” No new update has been issued at the time this article was updated (Feb. 3, 2022).
“One person commented [on Flores’ Instagram post] that they recently had a serious surgery that left them needing a tiny amount of hormone supplementation to keep up their quality of life,” Flores tells BarBend. “However, this had banned them from tested competition.”
In part 14 of the rulebook (page 84), the USPA states: “The USPA doesn’t make a distinction between transgender or non-transgender athletes in nontested competitions. Everyone is welcome to compete in the USPA and will be held to the same set of rules as stated in our rule book, whether lifting as a male or female.”
Trans Powerlifters in Tested Competitions
In Jan. 2021, powerlifter JayCee Cooper filed charges against USA Powerlifting (USAPL) and USAPL Minnesota in Ramsey County Court, MN. The suit alleged violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act after the USAPL released its Transgender Participation Policy in 2019, which prevents trans women from competing in the Women’s division. Cooper was informed that she would not be allowed to compete in the Women’s division of an upcoming competition the same week that the USAPL published their “Transgender Participation Policy.”
In 2019, lifters at the USAPL Minnesota State Championships protested the federation’s decision to ban trans athletes from competing in accordance with their gender. Several athletes let each of their lifts time out, going “zero for nine” at the meet as a statement against the USAPL’s decision.
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In January 2021, the USAPL introduced four new divisions, including the MX Division. This division is for lifters of all gender identities to compete across 14 weight classes in the Sub-Junior, Junior, Open, and Masters I-IV age divisions. This division follows the same rules and will be held to the same anti-doping standards as all other categories. As of 2022, MX athletes can compete in Nationals, which will provide them with a clear path to represent the USA internationally. The USAPL’s MX category adheres to the same weight classes as the LGBT International Powerlifting Championships (LGBT IPC) MX category, which launched the first-ever MX third gender category in 2018.
Inclusivity in Strength
Many trans athletes, like Flores in her Jan. 29 Instagram post, encourage powerlifting federations to adopt standards similar to those of the IOC, which explicitly places the principle of inclusion before measuring hormone levels when determining athletes’ eligibility for participation in sports.
Previously, the IOC’s guidelines allowed trans lifters — like Olympian Laurel Hubbard — to compete alongside their cisgender peers if they submitted to testing their hormone levels for a period of 12 months before competition and provided a formal declaration about their gender identity.
Many sports governing bodies have adopted more trans-inclusive policies, including the Powerlifting America, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
According to an Instagram Story posted by Flores on Feb. 2, 2022, she will be competing at USPA Nationals in Las Vegas, NV, from July 7-10.
“Regardless of the circumstances, competing and lifting alongside my peers is my number one love and passion,” Flores wrote. “USPA, see ya’ll in Vegas.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include the USPA’s statement — made in a private Facebook Group — that they intend to remove rule 1.8.19.
Featured Image: @arkangeljoy/Instagram