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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Controversy brews over transgender weightlifter set to create history at Tokyo Olympics

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to create history at the Tokyo Olympics, but her participation in women's weightlifting has sharply divided opinion.

By: Sports Desk |
Updated: May 14, 2021 7:46:58 am
Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first transgender Olympics athlete. (File Photo/AFP)

Laurel Hubbard is set to create history at the Tokyo Olympics this year by being the first transgender athlete to be participating in the Games. However, this has sharply divided opinion between those who see it as a step forward for trans athletes and those who say that Hubbard benefits from an unfair advantage.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee said in a statement last week that Laurel Hubbard is one of the weightlifters who are likely to be allocated a spot for the Olympics.

“The NZOC can confirm that revised International Federation (IF) qualification systems are very likely to see a number of New Zealand weightlifters, including Commonwealth Games transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard, allocated an IF quota spot for Tokyo 2020,” the NZOC said in a statement.

The 43-year-old Hubbard previously competed in men’s weightlifting before transitioning to a woman in 2013.

‘Fairness and equality’

However, Hubbard’s historic feat has not been appreciated by all.

Former Olympic weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs has claimed female athletes are being told to “be quiet” when they complain about the fairness of Laurel Hubbard competing in women’s competitions.

She told TVNZ: “I’m quite disappointed for the female athlete who will lose out on that spot. We’re all about equality for women in sport but right now that equality is being taken away from us. I’ve had female weightlifters come up to me and say, ‘what do we do? This isn’t fair, what do we do?’ Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do because every time we voice it we get told to be quiet.”

Opposition to Hubbard’s participation in women’s weightlifting is not new. Australia’s weightlifting federation had complained about Hubbard during the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi had said of Hubbard in 2019: “Whichever way you look at it, he’s a man.”

British television presenter Piers Morgan also targeted Hubbard last year. “This is insane. Women’s rights to basic fairness & equality are getting destroyed at the altar of political correctness,” Morgan had tweeted.

Olympic guidelines

The International Olympic Committee issued guidelines in 2015 allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition. The international weightlifting federation follows this guideline, thus paving way for Hubbard’s participation in women’s weightlifting.

In an interview after finishing second in the world championships in 2017, Hubbard had said: “Even 10 years ago the world perhaps wasn’t ready for an athlete like myself – and perhaps it is not ready now. But I got the sense at least that people were willing to consider me for these competitions and it seemed like the right time to put the boots on and hit the platform.”

The rescheduled Tokyo Olympics are due to start on 23rd July.

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