The transgender conquest of women’s sports continued as a New Zealand weightlifter took home multiple gold medals at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.
Laurel Hubbard, 41, won two gold medals and a silver in the three heavyweight categories, for women weighing more than 87 kilograms, or 192 pounds, finishing first in the snatch-lift and combined categories and second in the clean-and-jerk; and has sparked fierce debate.
Second place went to Samoa’s Feagaiga Stowers, who took home the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games last year after Hubbard withdrew with an injured elbow, triggering outrage in the Pacific island nation.
New Zealand based lobby group “Speak Up for Women”, which advocates that sport must be categorized by sex rather than gender identity, has demanded that the country’s Olympic committee and sports minister put a stop to “unfair” competition.
Hubbard, who competed for New Zealand in men’s weightlifting before her transition in her thirties, won two golds and a silver in three of the women’s heavyweight categories at the Games in Samoa earlier this month.
With Hubbard free to compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, she has become a lightning rod for criticism of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s guidelines for the inclusion of transgender athletes.
IOC guidelines issued in 2015 say that any transgender athlete can compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months prior to their first competition.
The guideline has been railed by some scientists, who say it doesn’t mitigate natural biological advantages enjoyed by male-born athletes, including bone and muscle density.
Researchers at the Dunedin-based University of Otago said in a peer-reviewed study published earlier this month that the IOC guidelines were “poorly drawn” and the mandated testosterone level was still “significantly higher” than that of women.
The study advocated that the IOC ditch its “binary” approach to competition and consider introducing a transgender category or find another solution that balances the desire for inclusion with the need for a level playing field.
The research was dismissed by transgender advocates and athletes.
“The opinions of scientists although valid, are just that, opinions,” said New Zealand mountain biker Kate Weatherly, who transitioned as a teenager and has become a national champion competing against women.
Hubbard’s gold wins at the Pacific Games, and her renewed status as a contender at international events, have re-ignited a debate set to rage all the way to Tokyo in 2020.
“I really don’t think he — she — should ever participate in this (tournament), but I realize we have to (be) inclusive and we cannot exclude these people,” Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told Reuters of Hubbard’s participation at the Pacific Games.
“They ought to participate in these Games in their own category.”