Penang, Malaysia. Weightlifting’s world governing body agreed Wednesday to modify its clothing rules to accommodate a Muslim women competing for the United States.
Kulsoom Abdullah of Atlanta was barred from entering higher-level US competitions. Her Muslim faith requires that she covers her arms, legs and head, which violates international rules governing weightlifting attire.
USA Weightlifting took her case to the International Weightlifting Federation, which agreed to change the rules after its technical committee reviewed the proposal.
“The modified rule changes permit athletes to wear a one-piece, full-body, tight-fitted ‘unitard’ under the compulsory weightlifting costume,” IWF vice president Sam Coffa said.
“The ‘unitard’ will enable technical officials to effectively adjudicate areas of the body which are essential to the correct execution of the lift.”
Abdullah called the ruling a great victory.
“I am hopeful for more participation in sports for women,” she said in a statement. “I have a positive outlook on getting costume details finalized for Olympic lifting competitions. Additionally, I hope other sporting organizations will follow example to allow greater inclusion and participation in their respective sport. One example is FIFA’s disqualification of the Iranian women’s team.”
Iran was prevented by FIFA from playing a 2012 Olympics qualifier against Jordan earlier this month because its women’s team came out wearing Islamic head scarves. The hijab scarf is banned for safety reasons by football’s governing body.
In weightlifting, the old rules didn’t allow suits that covered either the knees or elbows because judges had to be able to see that both have been locked out to complete a lift.
Abdullah said a tight-fitting shirt would allow judges to have a good view of her elbows. She also said she’d be willing to wear a leg covering that conforms to her religion but allows judges to determine whether she’s completed a lift.
The new clothing modifications go into effect immediately.
“This rule modification has been considered in the spirit of fairness, equality and inclusion,” IWF president Tamas Ajan said.
The IWF said the modification “promotes and enables a more inclusive sport environment and breaks down barriers to participation.”