United States Powerlifting Association Dissolves Executive Committee in the Wake of Background Check Controversy

The USPA promises to conduct background checks, start a new board of directors, and hire a third-party firm to handle misconduct.

The United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) has been embroiled in an online controversy that has resulted in numerous statements and significant changes to the federation

Since Jan. 20, 2023, USPA President Steve Denison has posted a series of statements on the USPA’s official Instagram page. One statement said the USPA made a “negligent statement” in 2020 regarding background checks; the second acknowledged members’ “concerns” about some of its hires in years past; the third post announced changes to leadership and protocol

These announcements from Denison came days after information regarding allegations against several USPA meet directors and an Executive Board member surfaced on social media. These posts have sparked a strong reaction from the community, resulting in some lifters canceling their USPA memberships.

BarBend has reached out to the USPA for comment. They have not responded to our request.

[Related: Best Power Racks For Small Spaces, Folding, And More]

What’s Changing in the USPA?

In the Jan. 24, 2023, post, the USPA, founded in 2010, outlined eight points of change in response to the controversy and subsequent backlash. They are as follows:

  1. The USPA’s Executive Committee has been dissolved and is in the process of being restructured. It will be renamed as the Board of Directors. 
  2. President Steve Denison and Executive Vice President Mike Tronske have stepped down from the Executive Committee. They will not be part of a newly restructured Board of Directors.
  3. A new Board of Directors will have 13 members in total. It will include the following:
    • Eight members will be selected from the eight various regions, chosen from the USPA’s pool of meet directors and state chairs.
    • Four referee members of National Referee status or higher.
    • One Chairman of the Board.
  4. Background checks will be done on all new Board members before them taking a position.
  5. Male and female lifter advocates will be implemented to give a direct voice to USPA lifters.
  6. The USPA is researching third-party companies to conduct full background checks and plans to update the community on its findings next week. 
  7. Meet Directors Chico Cloyne and Donnie Tudahl have been terminated from the USPA.
  8. The USPA will establish a third-party company/consultant to handle misconduct cases.

The Controversy

Starting on Jan. 14, 2023, online bodybuilding coach John Dorsey (aka @goob_u2 on Instagram) posted a series of Instagram Reels highlighting individuals charged with crimes who work with the USPA. It’s not entirely clear when those individuals were hired and their status with the USPA.

One of the meet directors mentioned in Dorsey’s videos, Chico Cloyne, was removed from the USPA’s Executive Committee shortly after Dorsey’s video went live; the USPA then publicly acknowledged that he was “terminated” from the federation.

Denison wrote the following in his first official statement, made six days after Dorsey posted his first video about the USPA:

“In 2020, when we began checking officials for any sexual assault-related offenses via the National Sex Offender Registry, we notified our community that we were conducting background checks. This was a negligent statement. We are deeply sorry for misleading our community. Going forward, we are going to be using a third party for official background checks. We see the need for better accountability and transparency with our community, and much-needed changes will be made. You have my word. I am truly sorry.”

Since these videos surfaced, several active powerlifters and meet directors denounced the USPA and called for change. Some lifters and federations have offered alternatives to those who no longer feel comfortable competing in the USPA.

Brandon Smitley, the owner of THIRST (Terre Haute Intensity Resistance and Sports Training), said he would waive the entry fee to his meet on April 1, 2023, for anyone who had already committed to a USPA competition and would prefer to lift elsewhere.

The World Raw Powerlifting Federation (WRPF) has since issued a statement declaring they will conduct background checks on new and existing officials. The federation also reduced the membership price from $69.99 to $49.99 (for an undisclosed period), and it will waive all fees for meet directors “transferring a sanction to the WRPF.”

[Related: What is the Suicide Grip and Is it Safe?]

“You did not plan to have your entire world turned upside down in the recent days, and we wanted to offer a way to help ease the financial burden if you choose to come here,” the WRPF wrote in their statement. “You should never have to question your safety or the integrity of a federation. We promise to always listen and do what is needed to nurture and grow this amazing sport.”

This is a developing story, and BarBend will update this article as more information becomes available.

Featured image via sportpoint/Shutterstock.