Laurel Hubbard, 39, the first “transgender” sportsperson to represent New Zealand was until recently competing with other men. But after regulations on transgender athletes defined by the International Olympic Committee were relaxed last year, Hubbard changed sides.
After being cleared by the International Olympic Committee and Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand (OWNZ) last week, the transgender will be one of 12 athletes in a weightlifting competition competing in the women’s +90kg category.
This category was introduced by the International Weightlifting Federation at the start of the year.
Australian Weightlifting Federation chief executive Michael Keelan expressed his misgivings about Hubbard’s transformation. “I personally don’t think it’s a level playing field. That’s my personal view and I think it’s shared by a lot of people in the sporting world.”
Speaking to the Australian Associated Press, Keelan said: “If you’ve been a male and you’ve lifted certain weights and then you suddenly transition to a female, then psychologically you know you’ve lifted those weights before.”
Hubbard, a former national junior record-holder in the male 105kg class, transitioned to win an international weightlifting title for New Zealand and Australia earlier this year in the Australian Open, lifting 123 kilos in the snatch and 145 in the clean and jerk.
The transgender athlete has allegedly met International Olympic Committee regulations for testosterone levels thanks to medication lowering “her” levels.
A spokesperson for the coming Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation said the event would be “the most accessible and inclusive Games in history”.
Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand president Garry Marshall is unhappy about the inclusion of the athlete into the women’s team: “She competed for a long time as a man and her efforts were very strong. That strength has remained with her despite reduced testosterone. That point is not recognised by the science and some of our competitors would say that’s not fair.”
A former national junior record-holder in the male 105kg class is now dominating the women's class post transition https://t.co/YaPtmW5Svy
— Claire Lehmann (@clairlemon) November 25, 2017
Previously Olympic rules banned trans and intersex people from taking part in sports unless they met certain requirements.
However, restrictions on transgenders taking part were largely lifted after South African Caster Semenya, dogged by gender accusations, led to efforts by track and field’s governing body to change rules on testosterone in female athletes.
Semenya, who suffers from a rare hyperandrogenist intersex condition, was subjected to a gender test in 2009 and found to be “female with a penis”. Semenya lives “her” life as a married male however.
The black South African, double defending Olympic 800m champion and also a two-time world gold medallist in the distance, was one of a number of athletes taking medication to lower testosterone until 2015 when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) suspended an IAAF rule that enforced a limit on naturally occurring levels.
Transgenders faced some obstacles in taking part in women’s events, requiring a consistent testosterone level “below 10 nmol/L” – but there is no longer a restriction in the case of gender surgery.
The guidelines explain: “It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competitions.
“To require surgical anatomical changes as a pre-condition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights.”
Transgender Hannah Mouncey meanwhile was blocked from being drafted into the Australian Women’s Football League.