New Zealand names transgender lifter for Commonwealth Games
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The selection of a transgender weightlifter in New Zealand’s team for next year’s Commonwealth Games has drawn criticism from rivals and a teammate who say she has an unfair advantage after competing previously as a man.
Laurel Hubbard, 39, will be the first transgender athlete to be represent New Zealand at a Commonwealth Games after being named in the women’s 90 kilogram-plus division for the 2018 games on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Hubbard is already the first transgender New Zealander to win an international weightlifting title after trouncing her rivals at the Australian Open in Melbourne earlier this year.
While the International Olympic Committee and International Weightlifting Federation have cleared Hubbard to compete against other female lifters, after she met strict criteria around testosterone levels, her selection has been criticized in Australia and New Zealand.
Michael Keelan, chief executive of the Australian Weightlifting Federation, said Hubbard had a physiological and mental advantage over her female opponents and was not competing “on a level playing field.”
“We’re in a power sport which is normally related to masculine tendencies ... we’re you’ve got that aggression, you’ve got the right hormones, then you can lift bigger weights,” Keelan told Australian Associated Press on Friday. “If you’ve been male and you’ve lifted certain weights and then you suddenly transition to female, they psychologically you know you’ve lifted those weights before. I don’t think it’s a level playing field.”
As Gavin Hubbard, Hubbard was a New Zealand record holder in the men’s 105-kg class before transitioning to female in her mid-30s.
Hubbard’s selection has also been questioned by a New Zealand teammate. Tracey Lambrechs was a bronze medalist in the 90-kg plus division at the 2006 Glasgow Commonwealth Games but quit the class, dropping to a lower weight division, because she could not compete against Hubbard.
Lambrechs said she would support Hubbard as a teammate but called on world weightlifting authorities to give more thought to the issue of transgender competitors.
“I feel there is an unfair advantage even though it is within the regulations,” Lambrechs said. “All I can hope is that they look into it and make a more educated judgement.”