A transgender woman from Virginia who set world records in a powerlifting competition last month has been stripped of those titles, after sports officials determined she had not completed her transition from male to female.
Mary Gregory of Richmond, who is 5-foot-9 and weighs 179 pounds, dominated her weight class in the squat, bench press and dead lift during a 100% Raw Powerlifting Federation contest on April 27, setting four world records in the process.
But federation President Paul Bossi announced this month that his organization had taken away Ms. Gregory’s titles.
“It was revealed that this female lifter was actually a male in the process of becoming a transgender female,” Mr. Bossi told the news publication Online Mail.
According to news reports, Ms. Gregory had completed 11 months of a 12-month hormone therapy regimen to reduce her testosterone at the time of the competition. She said she had been outed by a federation witness observing her provide a urine sample under the guise of a drug test.
In future competitions, she will compete in her own category.
“The lifter will be placed in a different category once the Transgender Division is introduced with a new policy,” the federation said in a statement posted on its website.
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone that is responsible for creating secondary characteristics such as increased muscle mass and bone density.
Ms. Gregory’s case illustrates the challenges facing sports organizations striving to balance fairness with inclusivity in competitions with transgender athletes.
Just last week, USA Powerlifting — the sport’s largest governing body — voted to continue to bar transgender men and women who use hormone therapy from participating under their preferred gender. The group was founded nearly 40 years ago to promote drug-free competition.
USA Powerlifting President Lawrence Maile told The Washington Times that the national board’s decision is about fair play and culminates a thorough review of scientific literature and years of lifting results, “rather than doing what appears to be politically correct and accept that there are no differences [between sexes] and allow for complete inclusion.”
“To Ms. Gregory’s credit, she competed in an organization that had no rules [on transgender participation],” Mr. Maile said. “She went in and was competing in good faith and assuming that all was well and, after the fact, has been treated very badly.”
In a similar case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland this month upheld the International Association of Athletics Federations’ ban of female competitors who have high levels of testosterone. The ruling effectively forces South African track star Caster Semenya to take hormone suppressants to compete in women’s races.
Doriane Lambelet Coleman, a professor at the Duke University School of Law, notes that sports have long grappled with the differences between men and women in competition. Among the sex-linked traits she cites as advantages for male athletes are more skeletal muscle, less fat and larger hearts with higher cardiac output.
“Some male advantages, mainly structural ones, can’t be eliminated through gender-affirming hormones. In sports and events where these advantages are determinative, a case can be made that dropping T levels to within the female range isn’t enough,” Ms. Coleman told The Times. “What makes it necessary to separate girls and women from boys and men in sport is that the latter have sex-linked traits that as a group make them indomitable.”
Ms. Coleman has testified on the differences between men and women before the House, as lawmakers there debate the Equality Act — which would add references to “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to federal civil rights laws.