Outcry as trans weightlifter wins gold in women’s competition

The New Zealand Olympic team has been criticised for allowing a transsexual weightlifter to compete in an international competition.

Laurel Hubbard, a 39-year-old man who is living as a woman, won gold in the over 90kg division of the Australian International competition this week.

His combined total of 268kg was almost 20kg greater than the female runner-up, Samoan athlete Luniarra Sipaia.

Criteria

Transsexual people often take hormone suppressant drugs or have hormone injections to change their physical appearance.

Hubbard was allowed to compete in the women’s competition because he passed International Olympic Committee criteria, which involves testing athletes’ levels of testosterone.

Female athletes were disappointed that Hubbard was allowed to take part, with one lifter telling New Zealand TV news station 1NewsNow that the inclusion of a male athlete in a women’s competition was unfair.

She said: “We all deserve to be on an even playing field. It’s difficult when you believe that you’re not. If it’s not even, why are we doing the sport?”

Previous success

Hubbard previously competed in men’s weightlifting and his entry into the women’s competition caused Kiwi lifter Tracey Lambrechs to lose weight and compete in a lower division, after she won bronze in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Prominent sportswriter Phil Gifford defended the decision in an interview with New Zealand News saying the criteria is “straightforward”.

He claimed that measuring testosterone levels is a “much more scientific way of measuring male gender, female gender than anything else that is currently known”.

Ensuring fairness

In 2014, another transsexual man sued the company behind a global fitness competition for $2.5 million, because he was not allowed to compete as a woman.

Chloie Jönsson was born a man but had a sex change operation in 2006 and is legally recognised as a woman in his home state of California.

CrossFit Games said because Jönsson was born as a male, he would “need to compete in the Men’s Division”.

The organisation, which aims to find the fittest man, woman and team in the world, says it would welcome transsexuals “but what we will not waver from is our commitment to ensure the fairness of the competition”.

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