A weightlifter who was born biologically male but now identifies as a female has become the first transgender athlete to qualify for an Olympic team. The athlete will be competing in the women’s weightlifting categories.
The athlete in question is Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand. Hubbard was competing in men’s weightlifting events before transitioning to female in 2013. Hubbard has been named among five weightlifting athletes selected to the New Zealand team. At 43-years-old, Hubbard will be the oldest weightlifter to compete in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. (Related: Pure INSANITY: Women told to shut up and not talk about a biological MALE weight lifter competing against women in the Olympics.)
“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” said Hubbard in a statement.
Hubbard was able to participate in the women’s qualifiers for the Olympics because of a 2015 decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In 2015, the IOC issued new guidelines that allowed athletes like Hubbard who transition from male to female to compete in the women’s category. All Hubbard and other male-to-female trans athletes have to do is prove that their testosterone levels have fallen below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition. This rule is similar to one followed by the International Weightlifting Federation.
New Zealand Olympic Committee Chief Executive Kereyn Smith said it is clear that Hubbard has met all the criteria to compete in the upcoming Olympics.
“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” said Smith. “As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of ‘manaaki’ [hospitality] and inclusion and respect for all.”
Before transitioning in 2013, Hubbard competed in men’s weightlifting competitions but did not compete internationally. Hubbard won a silver medal in the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships in the women’s category.
Hubbard then went on to win a gold medal in the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa. This sparked outrage in the island nation. Samoa’s weightlifting chief said New Zealand’s decision to allow Hubbard to compete was like allowing athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs. The chief said this might cost his country another medal in the upcoming Olympics.
IOC’s decision strongly criticized by pro-women athletic groups and female-born athletes
The IOC’s decision to allow Hubbard to compete in the women’s category in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics has been met with strong condemnation and criticism.
Hubbard’s testosterone levels are below the threshold set by the IOC for athletes competing in the women’s categories. But critics say that Hubbard’s participation in the Olympics is still unfair to biologically female athletes.
These critics have pointed out that testosterone is not the only factor that should be looked at. Hubbard still has other biological advantages, such as larger bone and muscle density the athlete gained when going through male puberty.
Save Women’s Sports Australasia, an advocacy group arguing against transgender athletes competing in sporting categories based on the gender they transition to, has also criticized the IOC for allowing Hubbard to participate.
“It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category,” said the group in a statement.
Other athletes have also lambasted the IOC’s decision. Belgian Olympic weightlifter Anna Van Bellinghen, who will likely compete against Hubbard, said the trans athlete’s presence would be “like a bad joke” for female-born competitors.
“Anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: This particular situation is unfair to the sport and to athletes,” said Van Bellinghen. “Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes – medals and Olympic qualifications – and we are powerless.”
“The extreme nature of this particular situation really demonstrates the need to set up a stricter legal framework for transgender inclusion in sports, and especially elite sports.”
Get the latest news regarding transgender athletes competing in different sporting categories by reading the latest articles at Gender.news.