Laurel Hubbard is genetically male, but transitioned to female in her 30s, and now the former men‘s weightlifting champion has qualified for the New Zealand national weightlifting team as a woman.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Saturday that it had cleared Hubbard to compete in the Commonwealth Games, one of several international competitions that precede the Olympics. Hubbard, they say, has “acceptable” levels of testosterone, clearing her to compete against female weightlifters even though she has a clear psychological and physical advantage.
The U.K.’s Pink News reports that the 39-year-old weightlifter will be New Zealand’s first transgender international athlete, and will compete to lift some of the world’s heaviest weights, in the greater-than-200-pound or “+90kg category.” Those are weights that only the strongest women are able to lift, but which are in the mid-level range for male weightlifters (the highest levels of male weightlifters can lift more than 105 kgs, or 230 pounds, according to the American Olympic committee).
Not everyone is happy with letting a male compete in a female sport. Australian Weightlifting Federation chief executive Michael Keelan told the Associated Press last week that he felt Hubbard had a clear — and unfair — advantage.
“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,” Keeland said. “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.”
For years, progressives have fought to give women equal, yet separate, access to sports, pushing Title IX policies that require women-only college sports programs. If schools can’t provide gender-segregated sports, they run the risk of losing federal funding.
But now, progressive thought on gender is pushing what appears to be a re-integration, forcing women’s sports to accommodate males who identify as females, even if they are certain to have physical advantages over their biologically female competitors.
The IOC has tried to find a way to control the gender-swapping by requiring men competing as women to submit to testosterone checks, and putting caps on how much testosterone can be present in male competitors. But the IOC has stopped short of requiring that individuals be fully — and surgically — transitioned to compete, and their standards have failed to account for physical advantages that linger even as hormones may not.
New Zealand’s Olympic officials are enthusiastic about Hubbard’s addition to the team, likely because they’ll be on the winning side of international competition. “[S]he could be a great role model for others to follow,” one official told the press last year.