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ESPN anchor Sage Steele has slammed the decision to allow transgender athletes to compete in the women’s division of USA Powerlifting after the sports body lost a four-year discrimination case brought by a trans lifter.

Steele said the decision is ‘unfair to women’ and pointed to how it was ‘ironic’ that it was made during Women’s History Month, which began on March 1.

‘Unfair to women. And the irony of this decision being made during Women’s History Month…,’ Steele tweeted. ‘The hypocrisy continues.’

Her comments came after USA Powerlifting lost a court battle in which a judge ruled that it had discriminated against JayCee Cooper, a transgender woman, by banning her from competing in women’s competitions. 

The topic has divided the U.S. for the past several years, with critics saying transgender athletes have an advantage over cisgender women in competition. 

ESPN anchor Sage Steele (pictured on February 12 in Phoenix) has slammed the decision to allow transgender athletes to compete in the women's division of USA Powerlifting after the sports body lost a four-year discrimination case brought by a trans lifter

ESPN anchor Sage Steele (pictured on February 12 in Phoenix) has slammed the decision to allow transgender athletes to compete in the women’s division of USA Powerlifting after the sports body lost a four-year discrimination case brought by a trans lifter

Steele said the decision is 'unfair to women' and pointed to how it was 'ironic' that it was made during Women's history month, which began on March 1

Steele said the decision is ‘unfair to women’ and pointed to how it was ‘ironic’ that it was made during Women’s history month, which began on March 1

Her comments came after USA Powerlifting lost a court battle in which a judge ruled that it had discriminated against JayCee Cooper (pictured), a transgender woman, by banning her from competing in women's competitions

Her comments came after USA Powerlifting lost a court battle in which a judge ruled that it had discriminated against JayCee Cooper (pictured), a transgender woman, by banning her from competing in women’s competitions

Eighteen states have passed laws banning transgender athletes from participating in female school sports; a federal judge in January ruled West Virginia’s ban is constitutional and can remain in place.

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Cooper first filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in 2019, stating the organization was banning her from participating as a woman. 

In 2021, Cooper filed an official lawsuit against USA Powerlifting in a state court, accusing the organization of discrimination. 

This week, the organization was told to ‘cease and desist from all unfair discriminatory practices’ related to sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a court ruling. USA Powerlifting now has two weeks to reverse its former policy.

‘The harm is in making a person pretend to be something different, the implicit message being that who they are is less than. That is the very essence of separation and segregation, and it is what the MHRA prohibits,’ the ruling states.

USA Powerlifting has already expressed interest in appealing the decision, which was issued Monday. 

President Larry Maile told KARE in Minneapolis his organization disagrees with the court’s decision and will be exploring their options. 

‘We have received a summary judgment decision from the Court finding us liable for discrimination. We respectfully disagree with the Court’s conclusions. We are considering all of our options, including appeal,’ Maile said. 

‘Our position has been aimed at balancing the needs of cis- and transgender women, whose capacities differ significantly in purely strength sports,’ Maile continued.

Cooper’s lawsuit was filed alongside Gender Justice – a Minnesota based advocacy group – in January 2021 after she said she was ‘fed up’ with how she and other trans athletes were being treated. 

Cooper (pictured) first filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in 2019, stating the organization was banning her from participating as a woman

Cooper (pictured) first filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in 2019, stating the organization was banning her from participating as a woman

‘I was fed up with the way that I was being treated; I was fed up with the way that my community was being treated, and enough was enough,’ Cooper told KARE-TV. 

She described to the Minnesota television station her feelings of relief now that a court has ruled in her favor. 

‘I feel mostly relief,’ Cooper said after Monday’s ruling. ‘I think we needed a win here, and it feels good to get that.’ 

Despite her win, Cooper says she has ‘complex feelings’ regarding the sport after her years-long battle. 

‘After years of experiencing discrimination from USA Powerlifting, and the backlash that has occurred due to that, of course I have complex feelings about the sport,’ Cooper said.

‘But I think that this win – [it] is a representation of where we can move forward,’ she continued in her interview with KARE-TV. 

In the United States, the conversation of transgender athletes in women’s sports has become a hotly contested issue. 

Just last month, an appeals court reinstated a challenge to Connecticut’s transgender athlete policy which allows trans girls to participate in women’s high school sports.

That ruling went against a decision issued by a three-judge panel. 

Cooper recently won her discrimination case against USA Powerlifting

Cooper recently won her discrimination case against USA Powerlifting

In January, former Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines and about two dozen demonstrators outside the NCAA convention protested the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports and threatened the association with legal action if it doesn’t change its policies.

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Gaines competed in last year’s NCAA swimming and diving championships against Penn’s Lia Thomas, who became first transgender woman to win a national title. She also placed fifth in the 200 freestyle, tying with Gaines.

‘Today, we intend to personally tell the NCAA to stop discriminating against female athletes by handing them a petition that we have garnered nearly 10,000 signatures on in just a couple of days,’ Gaines said at the time. 

The NCAA has permitted transgender athletes to compete since 2010.

Across the U.S., 18 states have passed laws banning transgender women or girls in sports. 

Advocates for the bans argue that transgender women – people born biologically male and then transition to female – have an unfair advantage. 

In 2022, Louisiana became the eighteenth state to pass a transgender athlete ban. 

The bill was put into law after Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards did not veto or sign the bill. 

The law requires schools to ‘designate intercollegiate and interscholastic athletic teams according to the biological sex of the team members.’ 

Those against transgender athlete bans argue that the bans are a way to humiliate and ostracize transgender athletes who ‘don’t fit culturally-accepted notions of femininity.’ 

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