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Letter: Ontario Powerlifting Association

January 18, 2023 Garrett Bentley President Ontario Powerlifting Association (OPA) Cc: Angelina VanRyswyk (APU), Shane Martin (CPU) and Gaston Parage (IPF) Re: Fairness for female powerlifters Dear Mr. Bentley: There is growing concern about fairness for women in Canadian powerlifting, specifically regarding males who transition and self-identify as women. In the case of Anne Andres [born male] who competes in Alberta, social media postings have been instructive. [] Responding to a respectful conversation in which a female competitor pointed to recent scientific evidence, Andres admits that male lifters who transition *do* maintain a competitive advantage and that an honest conversation needs to take place on fairness in the women’s category. This is an excellent suggestion. Female powerlifters in Canada deserve to have a thorough inquiry by the CPU into the ethics of forcing them to compete with someone who maintains a competitive advantage that exceeds the type of boost that could be attained via doping. Given that transgender policies of the CPU and IPF are misaligned, it is critical that unanimity is sought as soon as possible. Failure to do so exposes the CPU to possible legal claims of willful discrimination against female athletes on the basis of sex – a key lapse in organizational operations according to the CPU Code of Conduct and Ethics. Indeed, the utter unfairness of the Canadian policy towards female powerlifters is a clear violation of the International Bill of Human Rights, the intent of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, Article 10(g)), and the precepts of the Women’s Declaration (Article 7). No matter their level of competition – whether local, regional, national, or international - women and girls have a right to access and participate in sports in a manner that is fair, safe and without discrimination. It is interesting that Andres mentions how so few female competitors seem to mind having a self-identifying male athlete in their midst; that it seems to be “only men” who complain publicly. This is where the ICFS comes in. We are a global group that advocates for sex-based protections of female athletes across the planet. Our purpose in this situation is to represent the concerned female powerlifters in Canada. What sports associations fail to understand is that *many* female powerlifters really *do* mind! They feel helpless in the face of an ideology that expects them to shut up or be labeled as “hateful.” They are too polite to say openly that they resent the unfairness of having male athletes compete in their category. And those who do speak experience a type of bullying that stifles freedom to express their frustration. It has come to our attention that at least one Canadian powerlifter, [NAME WITHHELD], faces possible reprisals for speaking further on this matter. Veiled threats by a sports organization prohibiting an athlete from expressing concern about unfairness or lack of safety violates the principle of Safe Sport. Equally disturbing is athlete-required course content with a link to the widely debunked CCES literature review concluding that trans-identifying male athletes have no competitive advantage. It cannot be right to have such gaslighting content included as required learning when female powerlifters know that it is a policy position that will destroy their own chances of success. If female athletes are expected to accept this enormous unfairness, how can the CPU then espouse the philosophy that it is unethical for them to take PEDS? How in the world does the CPU reconcile allowing someone born male - essentially having benefitted from a lifetime of elevated T in a body able to maximize its effects and that typically results in a 50%+ competitive advantage – to compete with women, but at the same time would sanction any female powerlifter from taking PEDS that might deliver a mere 8-10% advantage? The sex discrimination could not be clearer. It stands to reason that female competitors are, then, filled with dread and anxiety, making their competition experience miserable when it should be joyful. [Please note: Now that we are aware of this situation, we will be monitoring upcoming CPU events carefully to ensure that [NAME WITHHELD] is treated fairly and respectfully at the competitions. It is important that [NAME WITHHELD] has this assurance from us for her own confidence and mental well-being. As Andres has suggested, there needs to be a frank and respectful conversation where all sides are heard in this matter without fear of retribution. Item 7.a.j of the CPU Code of Conduct and Ethics stipulates that all members of the CPU (including its leadership) have a duty to: “Ensure that all individuals are given sufficient opportunity to express opinions, and that all opinions are given due consideration and weight.” On behalf of the female powerlifters in Canada, we request that you – the provincial governing body for the sport – make a submission to the CPU requesting a full review of the fairness and ethics involved in this situation. We realize this topic is controversial in the current climate where, ironically, appeals for “inclusion” serve to exclude female athletes from their own placings and prizes. Perhaps this is the moment to remind CPU leadership of the commitment they make (Item 8.e of the Code of Conduct and Ethics): to not act out of “fear of criticism.” The ICFS is ready and willing to serve as “the voice” of the female athletes when such proceedings ensue. That way it won’t be up to individual female competitors to carry the burden of argumentation and rebuttal in defence of their sex-based rights in the sport. We also have the data and arguments readily available that will assist the CPU in formulating a sound policy that protects the female athlete category. As one of our founding members lives in Canada, we can ensure that she will make herself available to participate in such discussions should CPU decide to have them. Please consider this proposal and let us know if you need assistance from the ICFS. Yours in Sport, Founding Members, ICFS Email:


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