Tracey Lambrechs, a former pro weightlifter and Olympic competitor, is warning that the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports could be disastrous for female athletes.
Lambrechs, from New Zealand, ramped up her advocacy for keeping women’s sports for biological women after male-to-female transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand qualified to participate in the upcoming Olympic games in Tokyo. Lambrechs competed against Hubbard and lost several weightlifting records to Hubbard. Hubbard had competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before transitioning.
In 2017, Lambrechs was forced to drop almost 40 pounds in three months to qualify for a lower weight class so she could continue competing after Hubbard knocked her out of the top spot. Lambrechs’ coach was told she would have to drop a weight class if she wanted a chance at competing or she needed to retire.
“Losing that much weight quickly was not ideal for my health and I suffered some severe migraines and started passing out a lot,” Lambrechs told National Review. She added that being beaten out of competition by biological males, “psychologically speaking it’s very upsetting and stressful.”
Lambrechs said that as a member of the New Zealand national team, she was told to stay quiet and refrain from criticizing trans athletes’ inclusion in women’s sports or risk getting booted from the national team herself for embarrassing it.
“We were told not to talk to the media and were warned that if we did we could bring the sport into disrepute and then could miss out on being selected or could be dropped from national teams,” Lambrechs said. “The sports national body did not know how to handle the situation, so they had a knee-jerk reaction and thought silence would be best for them.”
Last month, Hubbard, 43, qualified for the Olympics as the oldest female weightlifter currently expected to compete.
“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement.
Hubbard’s qualification sparked controversy over the future of women’s sports if biological males are allowed to compete. Athletes and others critical of transgender athletes’ inclusion say that biological males, even if they meet the testosterone requirements through surgery to compete, still have significant advantages over their female competitors, such as bone mass and skeletal structure.
In 2015, the International Olympic Committee announced it would allow biological males to participate in women’s competitions as long as the athlete’s testosterone measured below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least a year prior to competing. One of the consequences of that rule has been to block female competitors with naturally high testosterone levels from competing.
Namibia’s Olympic Committee pulled two of its track athletes, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, from competing in the Olympics because their testosterone levels measured above the allowed amount. The athletes are attempting to get that ruling overturned, arguing that their naturally high testosterone levels should not bar them from competition.