The ban is the latest in a growing number of battles transgender athletes are facing in competitive sports
JayCee Cooper
Credit: JayCee Cooper/Instagram

Transgender powerlifters hoping to compete with USA Powerlifting received a crushing blow on Thursday, when head honchos for the sport’s leading federation reportedly voted to uphold its ruling banning transgender women competitors.

The national board of governors for USA Powerlifting voted overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining its policy, during a meeting in Lombard, Illinois, OutSports reported. A total of 50 people participated in the vote, with 46 voting in favor of keeping the rule and 4 voting to overturn it. One person abstained from the vote, according to the outlet.

A proposal for change had been submitted by transgender lifter JayCee Cooper and cis queer Latinx lifter Breanna Diaz. The two, who also run the non-profit Pull for Pride, were working alongside the Women’s Strength Coalition — all hoping to convince the organization to allow transgender lifters to participate in the category consistent with their gender identity moving forward.

Our proposed policy may not have passed today, but our fight for trans inclusion is not over,” they wrote in a statement on Instagram. “Women’s Strength Coalition and Pull for Pride will not stop pushing for a trans affirming and inclusive policy until all are welcome on the platform.”

Representatives for USA Powerlifting did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, but the group currently lists its “Transgender Participation Policy” on its website, explaining why transgender lifters cannot participate in sanctioned events.

According to their website, USA Powerlifting follows policies outlined by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), at the urging of the IPF Medical Committee. Though the IPF accepts the International Olympic Committee Guidelines on inclusion of transgender individuals in competition, the IOC Guidelines also allow sports to determine the impact on fair play through such inclusion — and the IPF Medical Committee “has been consistent in its opinion that use of testosterone and participation of male to female transgender athletes in our sport compromises fair play.”

According to the policy, “The first has to do with the use of testosterone or other androgens, commonly used to assist in transition from female to male. By virtue of the anabolic nature of these compounds, they are not allowed, nor is a Therapeutic Use Exemption granted for such use for anyone. This applies to any and all medical conditions which might be treated through use of androgens.”

Continue the guidelines: “The second area involves the participation of male to female competitors. Through analysis the impact of maturation in the presence naturally occurring androgens as the level necessary for male development, significant advantages are had, including but not limited to increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue. These advantages are not eliminated by reduction of serum androgens such as testosterone yielding a potential advantage in strength sports such as powerlifting.”

Meanwhile, fellow powerlifters have rallied behind Cooper since she posted about being banned from the sport on Instagram in January. Even Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, stood behind her — slamming the ban on transgender women competitors as “unscientific” and “discriminatory.”