Former weightlifting world record holder, Dale Shepherd, decided to protest transgender biological men entering women’s sports by applying to enter a weightlifting completion called “Day of the Deads” in the women’s category. Shepherd, who has held New Zealand’s record as the strongest man, wrote on his entry form, “I identify as a woman for this contest” next to the spot on the form where entrants were asked to indicate if they are female or male.
However, last week the Global Powerlifting Committee New Zealand (GPCNZ) told Shepherd he was not eligible to compete in the women’s category because he does not fit the criteria listed in the rulebook. The rulebook has a section that applies to transgender athletes, but it was not found on the website. Shepherd used the previous rulebook version when he applied to enter the contest in order to make a point to the powerlifting committee.
In response to his entry, Shepherd received an email that noted how prolonged hormone therapy should be taken before a man competes in a women’s event, “One year of hormone therapy is appropriate transitional time before an (MTF) athlete may compete in the women’s division.”
According to the rules, a biological male must declare their gender to be female and have undergone hormone treatment for at least 12 months leading up to the contest.
An additional bullet point in the rules seems to provide Shepherd with a way into the contest. It reads,
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“To make this guideline more inclusive, transgendered people who are not taking hormones (medically contraindicated or otherwise) will go under complete confidential review.”
This new change to the rulebook shows that biological males competing against females in sanctioned weightlifting competitions are completely subjective and based on a confidential review.
According to news outlet Reduxx, Shepherd replied to the email, calling out discrimination because only one group of athletes was expected to show their medical records. He said,
“I think there are some legal issues here for GPC. If they require only one class of athlete to provide medical records to confirm hormone replacement therapy but do not require any other class of competitor to do so, that would constitute discrimination.”
Greg Turrell, the GPCNZ spokesperson, attempted to downplay the Shepherd incident saying he is unaware of any transgender athletes ever participating in one of their competitions and that it has never been an issue before.
A similar incident took place recently in Canada. Head Canadian powerlifting coach Avi Silverburg entered the Heroes Classic Powerlifting Meet held in Lethbridge, Alberta, in March on the women’s side. Silverburg was allowed to compete and broke the women’s benchpress record in protest of gender self-identification in sports, Reduxx tweeted.
Dale Shepherd, following in the admirable footsteps of Avi Silverberg, Team Canada's powerlifting coach, who stole a women's benchpress record from a TiM cheat to make a point.
Thank you, gents. #SaveWomensSports https://t.co/87eCSZtWDB pic.twitter.com/AoQibMLJS1
— Comrade Alys in WanderLand (@Alys_Wanderland) April 17, 2023
Silverberg won the meet and also bench pressed 370 pounds, setting the Alberta female record. He beat the previous record of 275 pounds held by a biological male competing as a trans athlete named Anne Andres. Andres volunteered at the event and watched as his women’s record was broken.
“Day of the Deads” event organizer Mike MacKay said that there has been a huge uptick in females competing in strength events. Yet will women’s sports continue to surge if females are constantly forced to compete against biological males?