A former Olympic weightlifter claims that female athletes are being told to “be quiet” about transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard ahead of his Olympic debut.
Hubbard is a 43-year-old biological male competing as a woman. Should Hubbard pass the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) fitness and performance standards, he would become the first trans athlete to compete in the Olympics.
Tracey Lambrechs, a former Olympic weightlifter from New Zealand, expressed disappointment at the prospect of Hubbard taking away the opportunity to compete from women.
“I’m quite disappointed, quite disappointed for the female athlete who will lose out on that spot,” Lambrechs told TVNZ. “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.”
Hubbard formerly competed in men’s weightlifting before beginning the transition process in 2013.
As 7 News in Auckland reports:
She has been eligible to compete in the Olympics since 2015, when the International Olympic Committee issued guidelines 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.
Many scientists have criticised these guidelines, saying they do little to mitigate the biological advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males, including bone and muscle density.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it is currently reviewing its policy while taking matters of inclusion and fairness into account.
“The IOC is developing new guidance to help ensure that athletes – regardless of their gender identity and/or sex characteristics – can engage in safe and fair competition,” the organization said.
While Hubbard has not been officially given the green light to compete in the Olympics, New Zealand weightlifting coach Simon Kent says that Hubbard meets the International Weightlifting Federation standards and qualifications.
“The rules are in place, that’s the playing field we’re playing in, so that’s how we’re going to move forward,” Kent told TVNZ.
This is not the first time Hubbard’s involvement in a major competition has caused a stir. As 7 News reports, Australia attempted to block Hubbard from competing in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. A move that the event’s organizers ultimately rejected.
It was in that competition that Hubbard suffered a major injury.
The NZOC expects to officially name its weightlifting team in June.