Professor Ross Tucker went on BBC airwaves Monday to discuss the controversial participation of transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard in the women’s +87kg weightlifting competition at the Tokyo Olympics.
Bucking the mainstream narrative, Tucker explained the advantages Hubbard has in the competition against women as a biological male, irrespective of outcome or even hormone therapy.
Hubbard, a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman, failed Monday to complete any of the three snatch lifts attempted and did not advance in the +87kg weightlifting competition.
Some claimed Hubbard’s loss was evidence that Hubbard was not at an advantage as a biological male who underwent hormone therapy. Tucker explained why that’s not true.
“The rules state that the athlete has to reduce their testosterone level,” the BBC presenter said of trans athletes. “In your view, Ross, is that enough to allow a trans woman to compete in an event like weightlifting?”
“No, it’s not. That’s the short answer,” Tucker responded. “The problem is that there’s an asymmetry where, once testosterone has done its job, and viewers will know what that job is — it’s basically the development of male characteristics which we see so prominently during puberty and adolescence, so we’re talking muscle, bone, decreased body fat, increased heart and lung size — all of which adds up to strength and performance advantages.”
“Once those are laid down by testosterone’s effects you can’t undo them simply by lowering the testosterone level,” he explained. “And there are now ample studies that have demonstrated this. And so, therefore, the conclusion is that even the suppression of testosterone, as is required, leaves behind a considerable residual advantage that then means it’s unfair to cross into the woman’s sport category.”
Asked by the BBC if Tucker suspects the rules for transgender athletes will change in the future, the sports expert said it depends on what is prioritized in sports: “fairness and safety” or “inclusion.”
“The physiological side that I’ve just spoken about is relatively simple,” Tucker emphasized, “where this becomes a bit more complex … is that there’s a societal pressure for inclusion. So, what sport actually then has to do is it has to try and juggle these two conflicting imperatives … fairness and inclusion.”
“In some sports, there’s also a safety consideration. And whether sports wish to try and do that or not will determine whether they change the policy. Some sports will go with safety priority number one, fairness, and then inclusion,” Tucker continued. “Others may say that inclusion matters more, and they will then keep the same policy. So it really depends what they want to make of those different imperatives.”
Tucker was then asked about Hubbard’s poor showing at the Tokyo Olympics and how the results might bolster opponents’ argument that biological men somehow do not have an advantage over biological females.
Tucker explained that the results are irrelevant to Hubbard’s inclusion in female sports. “I’m pretty confident that you can’t measure advantage relative to others; you have to measure whether an advantage exists relative to yourself,” he argued. “I mean if I were to dope to compete in the Olympics, I would certainly have an advantage. I still wouldn’t win it.”
To say Hubbard didn’t clean up at the Olympics and “therefore there’s no advantage, that to me is an incorrect assessment of what has happened,” he asserted.
“It was already a polarized and difficult debate to be involved in, but as far as I’m concerned, the results shouldn’t change the principle, and the principle is that women’s support needs to be protected against testosterone advantages.”
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