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Update: My 2-year suspension over advocacy to keep women’s sports female reduced on appeal

Official Release

January 5, 2024


TORONTO: Competitive powerlifter, April Hutchinson, who was issued a 2-year ban on

competition by the Canadian Powerlifting Union (“CPU”) over claims she had “misgendered”

and “harassed” a transgender powerlifter who was competing—and winning—in female

competitions, has won a partial victory on appeal. An adjudicator appointed under the CPU

appeal policy released a decision on January 3, reducing Hutchinson’s suspension to one year.

Hutchinson’s advocacy and resulting ordeal began in January of 2023, when she wrote a letter

to her provincial and federal powerlifting associations, raising concerns about the impact and

fairness of biological male competitors in women’s categories of her sport. She did not receive

the courtesy of a response, and the CPU did nothing to meaningfully address the inherent

unfairness of permitting any athlete who has gone through male development and puberty, with

a 50%+ resultant physical advantage, and who simply self-identifies as a woman, to compete in

women’s categories.


Hutchinson then took her advocacy for fairness in women’s sports to social media, and quickly

became a prominent voice. In one interview on the British-based Piers Morgan show, she

referred to a transgender competitor, who identifies as a woman, as a “man” and pointed out

that this competitor was taking women’s hard-fought records. Indeed, at the recent Western

Canadian Powerlifting Championships, the transgender competitor beat the next place female

finisher by over 200 kg (or about 470 lbs). Hutchinson had commented online that “a man now

holds all the records in Alberta and Canada.” In fact, this competitor took three new Masters

titles in women’s categories, in addition to previous records, official and unofficial, which no

natal female will likely ever be able to reach. And a 4th record previously held by this competitor

was “stolen” by Team Canada coach Avi Silverberg last March, when he turned up at a

competition, declared himself to be a “woman” as was permitted under the CPU’s Trans

Inclusion Policy in force at that time, and took the Bench record back from the transgender

competitor.


These factual statements were deemed “harassment” by the CPU under its Code of Conduct

and Ethics and, when Hutchinson refused to be silenced, she was slapped with the harsh two-

year suspension.


“Advocating for women’s sex-based rights and protections is about fairness and equality, not

harassment,” argued Hutchinson in her written appeal. “If women cannot state biological reality

without being accused of harassment, then women cannot protest against the sex-based

discrimination occurring against us. We are effectively silenced.”


Hutchinson felt she had no option but to advocate for the integrity of sex-based categories for

competition, since the CPU refused to address the obvious conflict, leaving women to fend for

themselves. She argues that it is impossible to accommodate gender identity in most women’s

sports without ultimately eliminating women’s sports. Allowing open categories for transgender

individuals to compete in (i.e. Open and Female) would be one way to ensure that everyone

gets to compete fairly.


As her lawyer argued, “There is a reason why competitors are divided into age, weight and sex

categories, and not by personality type or political views. Competitive sport is based on physical

bodies, not internal identities. Punishing the Appellant for publicly objecting to the notion that

gender must override biology in all respects is grossly unreasonable.”


On reviewing Hutchinson’s written appeal of the suspension, an independent adjudicator

appointed under the CPU’s Appeal Policy concluded that the CPU’s decision to discipline

Hutchinson was reasonable, based on the broad definition of harassment in its Code of Conduct

and Ethics. However, since the CPU’s decision was “procedurally imperfect”, he ruled that

Hutchinson’s suspension should be reduced from two years to one. There is no further appeal

process available.


Despite this middle-of-the-road result, Hutchinson’s advocacy over the past year has proven

highly effective and personally satisfying. With the support and assistance of the President of

the International Powerlifting Federation (“IPF”), pressure was applied to the CPU to force it to

come into compliance with the stricter requirements of the IPF, which it did in November. A male

athlete can no longer simply “identify” as a woman and immediately compete.


“I am grateful to the IPF for implementing a stricter policy,” said Hutchinson. “I've had nothing

but a great relationship with the President. He's been wonderful to work with. This

accomplishment means more to me than any gold medal. And I have found my calling which is

advocacy for fair sport for women,” Hutchinson continued.


Awareness of the issues faced by female competitors has grown dramatically over the last year,

along with tremendous support from the public. Hutchinson says, “It was all worth it to fight for

women and girls and win the policy changes that take us much closer to fair competition.

There’s still a lot of advocacy work to be done, and potential legal cases to pursue for women

facing adverse impacts to fair competition on the basis of their sex, so my efforts are just

beginning.”


As for her suspension, Hutchinson vows to use the time to ramp up her training and return to

competition stronger than ever, both physically and mentally. As a recovering alcoholic, she

lives by the Alcoholics Anonymous motto, “To thine own self be true.” That means, to

Hutchinson, refusing to be silenced when told that the truth cannot be stated.


For media interviews with April Hutchinson or her counsel please contact:

Lisa Bildy, Libertas Law

 

I want to personally thank each and every person who has contributed and is contributing to my legal battle. Without each of you, this fight would not be possible. Onward, we march.


With love and gratitude;


April Hutchinson legal updates


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