A transgender weightlifter from New Zealand has sparked controversy after winning a women’s competition on Sunday.
Laurel Hubbard, 39, a transgender female athlete who transitioned to a woman in her 30s and previously competed in the men’s weightlifting category as Gavin Hubbard, won the women’s over 90kg division at the Australian International in Melbourne on Sunday and stands in line to represent New Zealand at the 2017 Commonwealth Games, according to AU. News.
She lifted 268kg and was almost 20kg better than the runner-up, Samoan athlete luniarra Sipaia.
Despite that Hubbard met the criteria set by the International Olympic Committee, the transgender athlete’s victory sparked criticism among the competitors, claiming Hubbard had an advantage in the female weightlifting category.
One Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, Tracey Lumbrechs, who was forced to lose weight due to Hubbard’s success in order to compete in a lower division, expressed uneasiness with the athlete’s eligibility.
Another weightlifter told 1News Now that Hubbard’s eligibility could be unfair. “We all deserve to be on an even playing field,” said Deborah Acason. “It’s difficult when you believe that you’re not. If it’s not even, why are we doing the sport?”
Acason added that certain adjustments should be made to reflect the disadvantaged female weightlifters. “We’ve got two categories here, it’s been great that women can do the sport of weightlifting … but I think we need to look at a decision where we can give people in this situation, have a category where everyone can compete on an even playing field.”
Bronze medallist Kaitlyn Fassina, however, claimed she didn’t see a problem with Hubbard’s participation. “She is who she is. That’s the way the politics…and what the New Zealanders have decided. I can’t say much more than that. She is seen as female and that’s the way it is.”
A prominent sportswriter, Phil Gifford, meanwhile, defended Hubbard, saying the athlete had every right to compete in the women’s category after passing hormone regulations.
“It’s testosterone levels which is a much more scientific way of measuring male gender, female gender than anything else that is currently known. And Lauren has passed all of those tests over the last 12 months,” he told a New Zealand news program.